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February 25, 2005

Europe and America: a new era?

"Good morning old Europe, this is the new George Bush". The smiling George Bush sitting next to Jacques Chirac and taking pictures with Jean-Claude Juncker came to "sell" his new image: the image of a peacemaker and a peacekeeper. Most of all, George Bush's visit to Brussels was an invitation to European leaders for a reconciliation, to erase argues of the past and work together for "advancing freedom and peace in the world" and especially the Middle-East. George Bush emphazised the necessity for Europeans and Americans to stay united, despite the differences, on the path for peace, putting the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as a priority. On Iran, George W. Bush encouraged the European Union to make sure that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons.

However, President Bush was more firm talking about the Syrian presence in Lebanon. Bush asked Syria to end its occupation of Lebanon. A good point for Bush. Indeed, the death in an explosion in Beiruth of former Lebanese Prime minister, Rafik Hariri, a personnal friend to President Jacques Chirac, made France and the U.S agree on the Syrian issue, at least. Definitely a good start for the new French-American relations.

Le Monde: Avec l'Europe, Bush veut faire la paix au Proche-Orient

BBC: Bush to Europe: Let's be partners

Posted 09:36 AM | Comments (0)

February 24, 2005

Schröder and Bush, out of politeness...

It was just a quick stop, something like a break on the european tour of George W. Bush. Nothing of interest was said, but his meeting with the German chancellor Gerard Schröder, on February 23rd, was maybe the perfect illustration of today's relationships between Europe and the United States: Stay polite, smile, try to be friends (again) and to forget the dissensions.

Gerard Schröder started with a letter in Bild, the bigest German weekly, beginning with a warm "Welcome to Germany" and "I am delighted with this meeting with president Bush and his wife Laura".
Everything was done to try to forget the dissensions about Iraq.

The French daily Liberation wrote about the meeting: "Symbolically, it was successful. Cordial handshakes, review of German and American soldiers, lunch with 109 guests. The chancellor did not spare his efforts for his host."
But also "the meeting will not appear in the history books" (despite a pact to cut coal emissions in China, India and other developing countries), insisting on the simple exchanges of courtesies on annoying subjects.

At the same time, Mainz, where the meeting took place, looked like a fortress. 71 flights were cancelled at Frankfort International, barges were not allowed around the city, mailboxes were dismantled and the manhole covers were sealed. 7000 people went demonstrating on the streets. Their message was just the opposit of that of Mr Schröder: "Not welcome, Mr Bush!"

Posted 08:34 PM | Comments (0)

February 23, 2005

U.S. Brands Threatened by Rising Anti-Americanism?

A couple of days ago I ran across mention of an article, "US Businesses Overseas Threatened by Rising Anti-Americanism" (also posted here under a different title), saying people around the world are increasingly avoiding brands perceived as "American" as a way of expressing discontent with the United States -- voting with their euros, pesos, and yen, as it were. Citing a recent poll by Seattle-based market research firm Global Market Insite, the article notes that sales for Marlboro and McDonalds were down in some countries, for example, and some German restaurants had stopped accepting American Express credit cards in a kind of reverse-Freedom-Fries phenomenon (see also this Reuters article from 2003). The story was also reported on by MSNBC, Time magazine, the Financial Times, and other media fixtures.

A look at the poll data itself, however, reveals that its results may be a little more complex. While it's true that 20 percent of Europeans and Canadians said they would boycott American products to protest U.S. foreign policy, the numbers don't seem too dire, on balance, for U.S. brands (although I haven't found data from previous years for comparison's sake). A significant majority of respondents, for example, said they "trust American companies." Similarly, solid majorities are also fond of American films and TV programs, "how Americans do business," and even "American multinational companies" (in this last category Americans themselves score lower than many countries: Mexicans, Japanese, Brazilians, Polish, Russians, Malaysians, Chinese, and Indians are all bigger fans of multinationals).

(More inside.)

U.S. corporations also get high marks for tsunami disaster relief efforts. (Although it should be noted that many of these questions are pretty leading. Example: Coca-Cola has provided bottled drinking water, basic foodstuffs, among other things to tsunami victims. Has this improved your image of the Coca-Cola brand? Is it really a surprise that the response was positive in three-quarters of the countries surveyed?)

Perhaps most interesting of all is this chart, which plots corporate brands according to how "American" they are perceived to be, and how likely respondents who said they would boycott American products were to avoid certain brands. Marlboro cigarettes seems to be the worst-off, perceived as "extremely American" by about 65 percent, with 60 percent promising to avoid purchasing the brand. Kodak, Visa, Kleenex, and Gillette fare the best, scoring in the low teens in both categories.

For an analysis of the chart, see this Daniel Gross column on Slate:

In the end, however, some of the rankings defy rational inquiry. How is that Jack Daniels, with its u-r-American name, is considered less American than German-sounding Budweiser? And some of the other results make me think that the people polled are just dumb. Chrysler, which polls in the danger zone as very American and unlikable, is owned by a European company!

Global Market Insite's news page has links to discussion of the poll in other news outlets.

Other, non-business questions in the survey are also interesting: The United States gets fair overall ratings; the American people score pretty high; American values, fair; and U.S. foreign policy and President Bush, predictably abysmal.

See also this previous discussion of U.S. brands flying the flag cautiously abroad.

Posted 04:30 PM | Comments (0)

February 22, 2005

The Economist (Part II): The Old Slur

A second article in this week's Economist, "Anti-Americanism, the American left and the American right" (a sort of companion piece to the special report previously discussed here), examines the meaning of "anti-American" inside the United States.

(Once again, this is premium content; for the full text, you'll have to wait for a sponsored free-access moment or purchase it outright.)

There is no thunderbolt that the American right likes hurling at its foes more than the accusation of "anti-Americanism". Most of its targets are foreigners. But, from the right's point of view, there are plenty of unAmerican leftists at home too. Conservative congressmen labour over laws to prevent leftists from burning the American flag. Conservative talk-show hosts are for ever uncovering anti-Americanism at Harvard or on National Public Radio. And conservative activists are forever shouting at liberals: "Why don't you move to France?"

"How widespread is domestic anti-Americanism?" the columnist wonders. "Is it really a doctrine that pervades the American left, as many conservatives charge? Or is it an eccentric phenomenon blown out of proportion by a vicious conservative attack-machine?"

(More inside.)

The writer considers several recent cases of lefties who've been labeled anti-American: University of Colorado professsor Ward Churchill, who described victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks as "little Eichmanns"; CNN news exec Eason Jordan, who was accused of saying that the U.S. military had deliberately tried to kill journalists in Iraq; as well as two notably vocal critics of the United States, filmmaker Michael Moore and the late writer and intellectual Susan Sontag.

The piece is typical of the Economist in that it combines sophisticated leaning-conservative-but-balanced analysis with a cutting British wit:

Comrades Sontag and Moore would insist that they were opposed to American foreign policy, not America; but, to put it mildly, they were pushing it. They also represent a private tradition on the American left of rubbishing their countrymen as vulgar morons, especially when set alongside sophisticated Europeans. (If you doubt this, don a tweed jacket, assume a British accent, invite yourself to a dinner party in an American university town and wait until the Pinot Grigio takes hold.)

The columnist then makes an interesting point: that "loud-mouth critics of American policy on the right" are hardly ever labeled "anti-American":

The American Conservative is as rude about American imperialism and the Iraq war as the Nation -- but nobody really accuses Pat Buchanan of anti-Americanism. As for dismissing American culture, Mr Moore is less acerbic than one of the right's patron saints, H.L. Mencken. The Public Interest and the New Criterion worry about popular culture. Robert Bork thinks America is slouching towards Gomorrah. Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell agreed that September 11th was a punishment for America's liberalism on abortion and homosexuality. Was that less anti-American than Ms Sontag?

The article draws one central conclusion, that the American left is every bit as patriotic as the right (witness Democrats' draping themselves in the flag at every opportunity). Rather, the thesis here is that the left loves the United States every bit as much as the right; it simply has different reasons for its patriotism:

Liberals think that America has been defined by its commitment to equality of opportunity (hence their worries about cutting inheritance tax); by its commitment to the separation of church and state (hence their worries about faith-based social policy); and by its enthusiasm for human rights (hence their worries about torture). When liberals created People for the American Way, they did not see it as a covert People for the French Way. The real battle-line in the culture wars is not between pro-Americans and anti-Americans; it is between two groups of patriots who have very different ideas about what makes America America (with the regional battle-lines, incidentally, bearing some similarity to those in the civil war).
This carries a warning for two very different sorts of people. The first is anti-American foreigners: they should not take clowns like Mr Moore or Mr Churchill as typical. Americans are a patriotic bunch -- and, for the most part, this patriotism stretches from one end of the political spectrum to the other. The second is the American right. So far, conservatives have played the unAmerican card extremely well; but when it comes to unAmerican purges there is always a danger of overreach.

Posted 11:57 PM | Comments (0)

Nordic Reactions to Bush’s ”Listening Tour”

The overall Nordic reaction to Bush’s trip to Europe has been positive, and his trip and words appreciated, but with some degree of skepticism as to whether this new rhetoric will in fact be followed by a genuine shift in policy. In spite of many common ideals and interests there are still critical disagreements between European and American approaches to Iraq, Iran, China, the International Criminal Court, Kyoto, and the fight against terrorism. Regarding the latter, the difference is most outspoken when it comes to the question of human rights, where the Guantanamo incidents have been widely criticized, especially throughout the Nordic countries.

In Bruxelles, President Bush described his European trip as a “Listening Tour”, which many Europeans have been longing for. This sign has been positively welcomed in Denmark, Sweden, and Finland, where Bush’s trip has been front page stuff followed by editorials in most major newspapers. The large Norwegian newspapers have been more reluctant in discussing Bush’s trip at editorial level, however.

In Denmark, the newspapers Berlingske Tidende, Jyllands-Posten, and Information have all perceived Bush’s speeches and trip as a genuine new signal coming out of Washington. Last month’s elections in Iraq and the new tone in the Middle East have been significant developments in creating more positive sentiments toward the US. Bush’s trip has been perceived as a stretched out hand to Europe. But in order to improve the relationship, both parts need to take action, according to today’s editorial of the semi-right-wing Berlingske Tidende. The US has to listen to its allies, but on the other hand Europe should be able to deliver both political and military contributions, and not just let the US take care of Europe’s security, like it was the case in the Balkans and Iraq. Another right-wing newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, in its editorial recommends European countries to welcome Bush’s stretched out hand, or otherwise the US will continue going it alone.

In Sweden, the reactions have been positive too, but also somewhat critical. The newspaper Dagens Nyheter in today’s editorial writes “Maybe we now have an American counterpart willing to listen, and maybe we also have a European Union with something to say” (my translation).

Demonstration mod Bush.jpg
A more critical news article in Dagens Nyheter covers the demonstrations comprised of 3,500 people from Attac, Greenpeace, Pace, Oxfam, and 86 other organizations in front of the US embassy in Bruxelles Monday and Tuesday. These organizations expressed their dissatisfaction with the US policy on the environment, human rights, peace efforts, and development aid.

In Finland, the newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet in today’s editorial claims that Europe’s and the US’ history is a uniting force, but “you can’t escape the fact that the US sees the world in its own particular way – a way that we find selfish” (my translation). The editorial states that what is worrying in the difference of worldview is if the US’ “black-and-white view of the world” will determine the question of Iran. The editorial continues to claim that the American vision of exporting its own version of “freedom and democracy” to make the world more safe, in Europe is perceived as naïve and illusory (my translation). Finally, the editorial expresses disagreement with the US solution to the world’s security problems in waging a simplified and general war on terrorism, when the causes of terrorism are more multifaceted, rooted in poverty, suppression, inequality, and historical and regional factors.

Posted 11:27 PM | Comments (0)

The Economist (Part I): Special Report on Anti-Americanism

This week's print issue of the Economist (Feb. 19-25, 2005) has a three-page analysis of world perceptions of America and Americans, in the aftermath of two recent polls (one conducted by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, previously discussed here; and another from the BBC). The article is premium content, but the site sometimes runs free-access days sponsored by advertisers (as is the case today, Feb. 22). In any case, it's an intelligent, well-written analysis of the current state of anti-Americanism around the globe -- well worth locating in print if you can’t get it online. (Excerpts inside.)

Though anti-Americanism spans the globe, the phenomenon is not everywhere the same. It mutates according to local conditions, and it is seldom straightforward.
No wonder. Most people's feelings about America are complicated. "America," after all, is shorthand for many other terms: the Bush administration, a Republican-dominated Congress, Hollywood, a source of investment, a place to go to study, a land of economic opportunity, a big regional power, the big world power, a particular policy, the memory of something once done by the United States, a set of political values based on freedom, democracy and economic liberalism, and so on. It is easy to be for some of these and against others, and some may wax or wane in importance according to time, circumstance, propaganda or wishful thinking. So it should be no surprise that some people can hold two apparently contradictory views of America at once. The incandescent third-world demonstrator, shrieking "Down with America!" in one breath and "Can you get me a green card?" in the next, has become a commonplace.

The piece begins with France, which it calls "the locus classicus of anti-Americanism." One source of anti-Americanism here, the author writes, is

the rivalry between France and America, based on their remarkably similar self-images; the two countries both think they invented the rights of man, have a unique calling to spread liberty round the world and hold a variety of other attributes that make them utterly and admirably exceptional. Jealousy also plays a part ... French anti-Americanism tends to rise when France has just suffered a setback of some kind, whether a defeat at the hands of the Germans, a drubbing in Algeria or the breakdown of the Fourth Republic.

The author then goes through many of the world's nations, from Angola to Vietnam, examining the state of anti-Americanism and identifying underlying causes in each:

In Iran, for example, anti-Americanism is a tool exploited by the regime "to divert attention from its many failures."

In Indonesia, it’s "largely an armchair affair."

The piece concludes by pointing out that recent polls show anti-Americanism in many cases may have much to do with the reelection of George W. Bush and policies specific to the current administration, then saying:

That is the, perhaps short-term, view of some non-Americans. It is accompanied by another view, increasingly common among pundits, which holds that America is losing its allure as a model society. Whereas much of the rest of the world once looked to the United States as a beacon, it is argued, non-Americans are now turning away. Democrats in Europe and elsewhere who once thought religiosity, a belief in capital punishment and rank hostility to the United Nations were intermittent or diminishing features of the United States now see them as rising and perhaps permanent. Such feelings have been fortified by Mr Bush’s doctrine of preventive war, Guantánamo, opposition to the world criminal court and a host of other international agreements. One way or another, it is said, people are turning off America, not so much to hate it as to look for other examples to follow—even Europe’s. If true, that could be even more insulting to Americans than the rise in the familiar anti-Americanism of yesteryear.

Posted 02:08 PM | Comments (1)

But where is the world’s navel?

In a quite acid op-ed piece, one of the most respected El País’s editorialists pokes fun at the anti-American discourse, so common in Europe, and in Spain these days.

Hermann Tertsch underlines the pleasure that some people take in giving lessons to the Americans. Isn’t Bush a “rufián” (scoundrel?) Aren’t they “esquisitos” (exquisite?)

In the mean time important things are happening elsewhere. Bush is in Europe, but Latin America looks towards China; Tokyo and Washington just signed an important defense pact related to common threats in the Pacific “the probable new geostrategic center of the world.”

“Our villain was clearly wrong when he thought he could reorganize the world all by himself. We keep being wrong when we think we are its navel.”

Un rufián entre exquisitos

Ya está aquí. Ya tenemos entre nosotros al gran rufián del nuevo siglo, George W. Bush, al que en Madrid unos equiparan a Hitler, y en París, otros al camboyano Pol Pot, el gran villano responsable directo de que los terroristas islamistas asesinen a la población en Irak, de los muertos de hambre en Sudán, de que no se alertara a tiempo del tsunami en Indonesia y de la malaria africana, de robar a los pobres para enriquecer a los ricos. Ha llegado, al iniciar su segundo mandato como gran jefe del Imperio del Mal, con la peor de sus sonrisas porque esta vez no viene a amenazarnos como otras veces, sino -algo mucho más perverso aún- a intentar embaucarnos. Pero aquí, en una Europa cada vez más convencida y autosatisfecha con su papel como Reino exquisito del Bien y exportador neto de bienaventuranzas al mundo entero no nos vamos a dejar engañar. Sabemos que, lejos de haberse caído del caballo, de confesar y expiar sus pecados, errores y perversiones, Bush está aún lejos de aceptar el hecho incontrovertible de que nuestro gran eje de la bonhomía ha tenido y tiene siempre razón cuando se opone frontalmente a él y a su política. Adalides de la franqueza y el talante y el diálogo hasta con los enemigos declarados de la democracia, los europeos sabemos que Bush, igual que Condoleezza Rice -traidora ha de ser siendo negra y mujer en la siniestra corte de allende el Atlántico-, viene a lograr los mismos fines monstruosos con diferentes argucias. Y además no han pedido perdón.

Estos vienen a ser -y perdón por la burda caricatura en la que nada he inventado yo- los trazos gruesos de argumentación que se han prodigado en la prensa europea estos días con motivo de la gira europea del presidente de los EE UU. Los políticos europeos por su parte -nobleza obliga- destacan en público como éxito propio el nuevo tono del presidente norteamericano hacia la Unión Europea, pero con igual énfasis dejan claro quién ha de cambiar su política de forma radical para recibir la bendición de esta gran Tabla Redonda del humanismo que se consideran.

Nadie defiende aquí a la Administración de Bush de unas acusaciones más que fundadas de indigencia política, de sus aberraciones retóricas, de los graves desastres de su gestión en el Irak de posguerra, ni sus reformas fiscales tan ajenas al llamado "conservadurismo compasivo" -detestable término- que en su día propugnó. Muchas serían las rectificaciones justificadas y bienvenidas por todos los que creen que un buen funcionamiento de la alianza transatlántica es vital para la seguridad de EE UU y la UE, y más para la de esta segunda. Pero no deja de tener gracia la autosuficiencia con que responden algunos de los grandes adalides del mundo multipolar a los intentos de la nueva Administración norteamericana de cerrar heridas.

Quienes durante más de dos años han celebrado con mayor o menor disimulo las dificultades de EE UU en Irak y apenas han ayudado simbólicamente a poner fin a una situación que amenaza la seguridad de Europa más aun que a la de EE UU, ahora adoptan una pose de superioridad moral que fácilmente puede volverse contra todos y la imprescindible cooperación en Oriente Medio, ahora que surgen esperanzas tanto en Irak -gracias a los esfuerzos y muertos iraquíes y norteamericanos- como en Palestina, en gran parte gracias a la muerte de aquel adoptado favorito de la Europa biempensante. Los errores, exquisitos humanistas, no son sólo del villano tejano.

Y mientras aquí se da lecciones a Bush, Washington y Tokio han firmado un importante pacto de defensa para hacer frente a amenazas comunes en el Pacífico, probable nuevo centro geoestratégico del mundo, e Iberoamérica mira a China. Está claro que nuestro villano se equivocó cuando se creyó poder reorganizar por su cuenta el mundo. Nosotros nos seguimos equivocando cuando nos creemos su ombligo.

Posted 10:52 AM | Comments (0)

February 21, 2005

Bush and Chirac prefer Syria

On the very day in which both Presidents were expected to meet Le Monde, the French Daily published a long, and useful article summarizing the history of the relationships between George Bush and Jacques Chirac.

French have tried to mend fences for a while. The White House has more recently decided that in order to improve the relationship with Europe, it needed to make a gesture towards Chirac.

By temperament both men could find common ground, but the French President has to learn not to constantly remind his counterpart that he has been in politics for 50 years. The “been there, done that” approach is not the best way to please the confident most powerful man in the world.

Bush and Chirac are not coming together out of love, but obviously out of reason. The best advice given to them was not to talk about Iraq.

From the result of their meeting it appears they get along much better when dealing with Lebanon, and Syria.

Bush, Chirac sourire de rigueur
LE MONDE | 21.02.05 | 15h08
D'Abidjan à Bagdad en passant par Paris, les dessous de la nouvelle donne franco-américaine.

Juin 2004 : à la veille du soixantième l'anniversaire du débarquement allié en Normandie, George W. Bush, qui dit apprécier qu'on lui parle franchement comme le fait Jacques Chirac, promet d'inviter son homologue français à "venir voir les vaches" dans son ranch de Crawford (Texas). Aujourd'hui, si George Bush n'a pas encore mis à exécution sa promesse de présenter les vaches américaines au président français, leur rencontre de Bruxelles, lundi 21 février, semble ouvrir un nouveau chapitre dans les relations entre les deux hommes.

Certes, il y a déjà eu, depuis l'intervention en Irak au printemps 2003, des poignées de main et des sourires en public et on a toujours affirmé, de part et d'autre, que les désaccords d'un moment n'entamaient en rien "l'amitié séculaire entre les deux pays". Les retrouvailles de Bruxelles suscitent ainsi un certain sentiment de "déjà vu", teinté de scepticisme.

C'est que l'on ne passe pas aussi aisément de l'incitation au "french-bashing" (le dénigrement antifrançais, en vogue ces dernières années aux Etats-Unis) à la familiarité affichée avec celui qui fut parfois considéré, à la Maison Blanche, comme un traître, en tout cas comme le plus gênant des alliés européens. Il y faut quelques préalables. Le principal ? La décision prise à Washington de changer de politique envers l'Europe. Cela passe par un réchauffement avec Paris, à la faveur du réexamen général qui a eu lieu à Washington au début du second mandat présidentiel. Le dîner de Bruxelles, lundi 21 février, devrait donc être, cette fois pour de bon, la première page du "nouveau chapitre" franco-américain.

La cordialité enveloppante de Jacques Chirac est tout à fait capable de surmonter les désaccords du moment et de s'abattre sur le président américain. Si les plaisanteries un peu lourdes de celui-ci font moyennement rire à l'Elysée, Jacques Chirac montre qu'il ne déteste pas le côté texan de son homologue. "La relation Bush-Chirac n'est pas si mauvaise, confirme un conseiller de la Maison Blanche. Ils ont tous les deux le contact facile. Mais dès qu'ils parlaient de l'Irak, ça tournait à la catastrophe."

Du côté américain, on espérait que le président français saurait trouver le ton adéquat. "Chirac a un côté "je connais le dossier, cela fait cinquante ans que je fais ce métier" qui est agaçant, confie un responsable américain. Il faut trouver moyen de faire comprendre ça à Bush sans avoir l'air de le lui dire." Le changement de disposition de l'un envers l'autre est beaucoup plus le fait de Washington que celui de Paris. Car il y a longtemps que la France cherche à renouer une coopération utile avec Washington et elle y est d'ailleurs parvenue, de façon sectorielle, sur de nombreux dossiers d'intérêt commun.

Reste à évacuer de la relation, sinon la méfiance, du moins la défiance, à la purger des séquelles revanchistes, à éviter les escarmouches à propos de l'Irak. L'important effort consenti par la France au sujet de la dette irakienne est aujourd'hui reconnu par les Américains, qui ont cessé de lui réclamer un engagement militaire. Les élections du 30 janvier en Irak, même si elles n'ont pas marqué la fin de l'histoire, ont aidé à "remettre le compteur à zéro" sur ce sujet-là, note un diplomate français

Ce qui a évolué, ce ne sont pas les convictions politiques des deux présidents, leurs conceptions antagoniques des relations internationales. "Sur le fond, la politique n'a pas changé, confirme un responsable français, ce sont les circonstances qui ont changé." George Bush a été réélu, en novembre 2004, pour quatre ans. Sa politique a été largement validée par ses concitoyens, et il y croit. Il n'y a donc pas de raison qu'il en change et il faudra bien faire avec. Mais il ne lui donne plus le tour guerrier qu'elle avait pris lors du premier mandat. Il entend la mener par d'autres moyens, notamment, si l'on en juge par ses déclarations récentes, par la concertation avec l'Union européenne.

Ce qui a changé, c'est aussi la situation au Proche-Orient depuis la mort de Yasser Arafat, le 11 novembre 2004, et la nécessité d'un consensus euro-américain (car, entre Européens, il existe) pour faire fructifier les perspectives ainsi ouvertes. "Dans la relation franco-américaine, le cercle rouge, c'est le Proche-Orient, assure un diplomate français, c'est le baromètre, ce qui fait basculer dans un sens ou dans l'autre."

Parallèlement, l'affaire iranienne est devenue un sujet grandissant de préoccupation commune. Les Européens tentent d'obtenir, par les voies de la diplomatie, un renoncement de Téhéran à l'arme nucléaire. George Bush a répété qu'il "encourage" cette démarche des Européens, mais il ne s'y est pas associé. Selon un expert français, cette distance, maintenue par les Etats-Unis pour sous-entendre qu'ils ne s'interdisent pas de recourir à d'autres moyens contre Téhéran, "est surtout publicitaire". La démarche européenne, selon lui, rend service aux Américains, dans la mesure où, pour l'instant, ils n'ont pas de stratégie de rechange, en tout cas "pas d'option militaire sur l'Iran". Selon d'autres experts, George Bush attendrait de ses rencontres avec les Européens qu'ils se disent disposés à porter le sujet au Conseil de sécurité en vue de sanctions contre l'Iran, et la France aurait fait savoir qu'elle y était prête.

Sur ces sujets, Paris ne joue pas une partition différente de celle des autres Européens. En outre, la France a pris seule, ces dernières années, diverses initiatives pour lesquelles elle a sollicité et obtenu l'appui des Etats-Unis et qui prouvent que tout n'était pas brisé dans cette relation bilatérale, même aux pires moments. Il y eut l'affaire haïtienne, en avril 2004, une opération expédiée en moins de deux semaines pour forcer au départ le président Aristide.

Ce "coup" a été monté conjointement par le ministre français des affaires étrangères, Dominique de Villepin, et son homologue américain, Colin Powell, à l'initiative du premier. Mais, un mois plus tard, M. de Villepin quittait le quai d'Orsay pour le ministère de l'intérieur. A-t-il fait les frais d'une volonté d'apaisement qui déjà existait à Paris, bien qu'en étant partisan ? Aux Etats-Unis, il avait rang de vedette mais, hormis au secrétariat d'Etat, plutôt en tant qu'ennemi numéro un. Côté français, on dément que son départ ait obéi à une exigence américaine, mais "c'est peut-être la conclusion que nous en avons tirée tout seuls", dit un responsable français.

La crise ivoirienne, en novembre 2004, est l'un des autres terrains où la France a trouvé l'appui américain. Sur place, l'ambassadeur des Etats Unis à Abidjan a toujours refusé de se prêter au jeu que tentaient de lui faire jouer les partisans du président ivoirien Laurent Gbagbo sur le thème de "vive l'Amérique, à bas la France".

A l'ONU, la France attendra, il est vrai, pendant des mois, une décision du Conseil de sécurité pour l'envoi de Casques bleus en Côte d'Ivoire, ce que certains interpréteront comme une forme de revanchisme de Washington. Les Français jurent, à l'inverse, qu'il ne s'agissait que de problèmes budgétaires au Congrès et font valoir que le soutien américain à la politique française en Côte d'Ivoire a été à plusieurs reprises clairement réitéré.

La coopération franco-américaine s'est développée dans d'autres domaines : la lutte contre le terrorisme ; l'opération menée conjointement en Afghanistan ; ou, encore, l'action entreprise de concert au Conseil de sécurité à propos du Liban et qu'a relancé dernièrement l'assassinat de Rafic Hariri, l'homme d'affaire et ancien premier ministre libanais, tué à Beyrouth le 14 février. "Cela remonte à deux ans, à la déception qu'a été pour nous Bachar El-Assad -le président syrien-", explique un responsable français. C'est en juin 2004, a précisé George Bush, que Jacques Chirac évoque avec lui l'idée d'une résolution de l'ONU pour demander le départ des troupes syriennes du Liban. Les Américains, eux, cherchaient depuis des mois à mobiliser le Conseil de sécurité contre la Syrie, moins pour défendre le processus politique au Liban qu'en raison du soutien de Damas au Hezbollah (mouvement chiite pro-syrien) et de son manque de zèle contre l'insurrection irakienne. Les intérêts différents des deux pays se croisent et la résolution 1559, demandant le retrait des troupes syriennes, est adoptée en septembre 2004. George Bush est alors en pleine période électorale. De part et d'autre, on observe une sorte de pacte de non-agression, en attendant les résultats.

Depuis le début 2004, Paris réfléchit à un "recadrage" de sa politique en direction de Washington, qui puisse servir en cas de victoire ou de défaite de Bush à la présidentielle. Premier temps fort : l'anniversaire du Débarquement en juin. Jacques Chirac organise une mise en scène solennelle en Normandie, en hommage à l'acte fondateur de l'Alliance atlantique. Ce n'est pas sans arrière-pensée : s'il apparaît que quelqu'un a "trahi", ce sera Bush. C'est bien ce que pense le public français, mais pas les Américains, auxquels George Bush destine la plupart de ses propos au cours de la conférence de presse qu'il donne avec Jacques Chirac à l'Elysée. Le président américain ne songe qu'au rendez-vous avec ses électeurs, cinq mois plus tard.

En dépit de la volonté française de recentrage sur les "fondamentaux" de l'Alliance, l'Irak continue d'empoisonner l'atmosphère. Les revers américains dans ce pays ont, à ce moment-là, l'allure d'une catastrophe, aggravée par le scandale des tortures infligées par des soldats américains à des détenus irakiens, une affaire révélée par la presse américaine en mai 2004. Les Français s'obligent à ne pas faire remarquer qu'ils avaient raison dès le début, mais ils persistent à penser - et à dire - que la seule chance de sortir du chaos passe par le retrait des forces étrangères. En juin 2004, lors du sommet du G8 de Sea Island (Etats-Unis), puis à celui de l'OTAN, à Istanbul, le président français apparaît, une fois encore, comme le détracteur quasi systématique de son homologue américain.

Pourtant, le 20 août, le conseiller diplomatique de Jacques Chirac, Maurice Gourdault-Montagne, rencontre Condoleezza Rice à Washington. "Nous avions analysé très tôt la situation, nous voulions envoyer un signal", commente un haut fonctionnaire. Le candidat démocrate John Kerry a refait son retard dans les sondages, mais les Français tiennent à faire savoir que, contrairement aux apparences, ils ne misent pas tout sur une victoire démocrate. Un autre temps fort de la stratégie française sera le discours prononcé par Jacques Chirac devant l'Institut d'études stratégiques (IISS) de Londres, en novembre, dans lequel le président énoncera sa doctrine en faisant une large part à un renforcement de l'Alliance atlantique.

Tout cela, à divers titres, a préparé la rencontre du 21 février à Bruxelles. Les responsables français veulent croire à la détente mais ils sont circonspects. Par moments, en effet, la crise a été sévère. Au point que certains Américains, estimant qu'elle allait trop loin, tentèrent d'intercéder, comme le sénateur démocrate Joseph Biden, qui a ses entrées à l'Elysée et à la Maison Blanche. Le Nouvel Observateur du 17 février a rapporté sa tentative de médiation, en décembre 2003, et le malentendu auquel elle avait donné lieu, le sénateur ayant cru comprendre que M. Chirac n'était "pas opposé à une mission militaire de l'OTAN en Irak".

Peu après, le Pentagone excluait des contrats pour la reconstruction de l'Irak les entreprises des pays n'ayant pas participé à la coalition. Effet de cette mesure ou pas, le président français, pendant des mois, s'est bagarré contre toute implantation de l'OTAN en Irak et, plus généralement, dans ce que les Américains appellent le "Grand Moyen-Orient".

Après le 2 novembre 2004, Chirac envoie une lettre de félicitations à George Bush, mais ne trouve pas le temps de lui téléphoner. Le 6 novembre, la Maison Blanche s'impatiente. Dan Fried, le conseiller pour l'Europe, appelle Jean David Levitte, l'ambassadeur de France à Washington. "Le président Bush souhaite appeler votre président." Avec un art consommé de la diplomatie, l'ambassadeur répond : "On vient de m'appeler de l'Elysée pour la même chose." Fin de la période acrimonieuse. Le 1er février, George Bush prend son téléphone pour commenter, avec M. Chirac, les élections de la veille en Irak. Le dîner à Bruxelles est annoncé quelques jours plus tard.

Corinne Lesnes et Claire Tréan

Posted 10:11 PM | Comments (0)

February 20, 2005

"Dubya Does Europe"

On the first day of President Bush's tour of Europe, the Washington Post's article offers a retrospective rehash of European (especially French) relations with America since Bush took office in 2000.

The article tells you:

- Politicians and even some other Europeans are ready to "turn the page" on the dangerously tense atmosphere that has been brewing for the past four years

- Realizing the need to be realistic, European countries are going to great measures to restore the relationship with the scary yet stupid superpower they admit they will be stuck with for four more years.

- The article does a concise job of outlining the progression to the anti-Americanism that has built up until now, and the various indicators that relations are heading toward improvement.

- "But the public antipathy toward Bush and his overseas policies is mingled with affection for the American people and many things American," like McDonald's, clothes, and America's other "accomplishments," people in the story are quoted as saying.

Other good quotes from Parisians:

"Things can get better, but Bush has to come toward France. I don't know why he was so angry with France -- all we did was say we weren't going to war."

"I'm not anti-American, I'm anti-stupidity.

The New York Times kicks off Bush's European visit with an examination of the division of the continent along a pro- and anti-American line.

"The right tone between the United States and Europe has been restored, a tone of normalcy that replaces one of distrust," said Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief. "Now we have to hope that the new tone is going to lead to a change in substance, to lead to concrete agreement. Obviously we are not going to solve all the problems with one meeting. But we are hopeful that the new tone is going to lead to a change in substance, to lead to concrete agreement."

This article also highlight's NATOs importance in the foreign policy issues between the U.S. and the European Union.

And in the Los Angeles Times, an op-ed piece is very prescriptive in what steps the U.S. and E.U should take to mend relations. The authors also discuss the internal development and growing independence of the E.U. in trade, foreign policy, and its own ascent to power.

And this other L.A. Times piece is sectioned into six leaders - of Venezuela, El Salvador, Spain, Germany, South Korea, and Australia - and how they "have fared by bashing (or saluting) the United States."

Europeans Ready to 'Turn the Page' on Disputes With U.S.
Leaders Expected to Try to Mend Ties With Bush During Visit, Despite Public Hostility Toward Him

By Keith Richburg
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, February 20, 2005; Page A11

PARIS, Feb. 19 -- When George W. Bush made his first trip to Europe as president, in 2001, his visit touched off widespread protests and derisive press commentary. Thousands of demonstrators marched through Goteborg, Sweden, and dozens bared their backsides for a "mass mooning" at Bush's hotel. He was lampooned as a "Toxic Texan" who threatened the environment, and an intellectual lightweight whose every gaffe was gleefully chronicled -- like his reference to Africa as "a nation."

Then came the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, which was deeply unpopular on the continent and seemed to confirm Europeans' worst fears that the American president was a reckless "cowboy," as he was often dubbed in the news media.

But as he arrives Sunday in Brussels, kicking off the first European visit of his second term, Bush will find European leaders going to enormous lengths to try to repair relationships that many analysts say had became dangerously frayed. And while Bush remains deeply unpopular in Europe, this time there will probably be fewer large-scale protests, and far less hostility in the media.

European policymakers, commentators and the public still may not like Bush, but they seem resigned to the fact that he will be in power for the next four years and that they must find a way to coexist.

"I don't think Bush is any more popular then he was before, but people, like politicians, are realistic," said Charles Grant, director of the London-based Center for European Reform. "They know they have to live with Bush for the next four years."

Pierre Lelouche, a pro-American member of the French senate, said: "There is definitely a will on both sides to turn the page, and at least create a new atmosphere in the relationship. . . . The U.S. has learned it needs allies and there are limits to its military power. And the Europeans have learned that [Bush] is fundamentally supported by the American people, who gave him four million more votes."

Several recent developments have helped encourage rapprochement. First, the Jan. 30 Iraqi election was more successful than many in Europe had predicted. While it did not alter the widespread European view that the invasion was wrong, it did seem to temper the criticism, while making European governments opposed to the war more ready to lend assistance to Iraq.

The slow but unmistakable movement toward peace in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute has also helped. For reasons of geography and history, Europeans pay far closer attention to the issue than most Americans do. Over the last four years, Europeans have blamed Bush and his close embrace of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for the continuing violence in the region.

In an effort to mend fences, Europe's political leaders have been rushing to make sure Bush has something tangible to take home from his trip. The NATO secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, has been pressing member states to commit to helping Iraq in some form before Bush visits the alliance's Brussels headquarters Tuesday. The European Union has also been putting the final touches on an agreement to begin training Iraqi police officers in areas like criminal investigations.

But while Europe's leaders appear eager to mend the strained relationship, the public remains largely hostile to Bush and skeptical of the administration's intentions. A survey this month by the German Marshall Fund found that half of all those surveyed in France and Germany thought Bush's reelection would worsen trans-Atlantic relations. A larger percentage in both countries said a stronger U.S. role in the world was undesirable.

But the public antipathy toward Bush and his overseas policies is mingled with affection for the American people and many things American.

"I don't like Bush, and I was against invading Iraq, and I'm against his way of imposing what he wants on the world," said Bruno Hoybel, 40, a car parts salesman, eating in a McDonald's restaurant here. "I'm not against Americans, just their policies. But I'm happy to be sitting here in McDonald's. You've got to admire what America has achieved, and the good things they bring over here, like clothes."

At the Coffee Parisian, an American bar on the Left Bank, the walls are plastered with photographs of President John F. Kennedy, the paper placemats bear the likenesses of all the past U.S. presidents and the menu offers cheeseburgers and pancakes.

Laetitia Valadié, 23, a waitress, said, "I don't like Bush because he's a manipulator, and he should never have invaded Iraq. He's like a little boy who's controlled by his parents. He doesn't take his own initiative, and I find that very scary," she said.

At The Refuge, a working-class Parisian café, Eric Braquemont, 45, who is unemployed, said, "Bush wants to make sure that when he comes here he gets everything his own way. Things can get better, but Bush has to come toward France. I don't know why he was so angry with France -- all we did was say we weren't going to war."

Manager Emile Dupont, a grizzled man with a thick, nicotine-stained moustache, said, "To see someone like that with so much power terrifies me. But I have lots of American customers, and we get on really well. After 9/11 I kept the bar open 24 hours so the Americans who live around here would have somewhere they could watch the TV and be together."

He added, "I'm not anti-American, I'm anti-stupidity."

Posted 02:56 PM | Comments (0)

February 19, 2005

North Korea "burned bridges"

North Korean leaders are attributing their refusal to abandon nuclear programs or return to the six-party talks to the United States' hostility and alleged intent to topple the North Korean communist regime.

The Associated Press story quotes North Korea's ambassador to the U.N. as saying his government has "burned its bridges" in the escalating nuclear standoff.

South Korea's JoongAng Ilbo newspaper quoted Han as saying: "If the United States withdraws its hostile policy, we will drop our anti-Americanism and befriend it. Then why would we need nuclear weapons?"

(02-19) 10:32 PST BEIJING, China (AP) --

A top Chinese Communist Party official met with North Korea's no. 2 leader Saturday seeking a change of heart after Pyongyang reportedly rejected any further negotiations over its nuclear weapons program.

The head of the Chinese Communist Party's international department, Wang Jiarui, who flew to Pyongyang on Saturday, had a "friendly conversation" with Kim Yong Nam, the North's official news agency, KCNA, said. The report did not futher elaborate on the session.

During his stay, Wang plans to meet the country's reclusive leader, Kim Jong Il, to give a "strong recommendation" that Pyongyang return to the six-party disarmament talks, South Korea's Munhwa Ilbo newspaper reported, quoting diplomatic sources in Beijing.

Xinhua, quoting an unidentified North Korean foreign ministry official, said earlier Saturday that the North no longer wanted to negotiate directly with the United States to ease the ongoing standoff over Pyongyang's nuclear program.

The official reiterated the communist regime's decision on Feb. 10 to indefinitely suspend its participation in six-party nuclear disarmament talks with the United States and four other countries, Xinhua said.

The United States and other countries are seeking to use what leverage they have _ including the good will between North Korea and its last major ally, China _ to persuade Pyongyang to resume multilateral negotiations. North Korea had demanded one-on-one meetings with the United States after saying it would withdraw from the six-party talks _ a move Washington rejected.

Reviving the stalled talks has taken on greater urgency since North Korea's explosive but unconfirmed declaration earlier this month that it has become a nuclear power.

The North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said his country was withdrawing its offer of direct talks with Washington because of what the official described as the United States' persistent attempts to topple the communist regime, Xinhua said.

"The DPRK has no justification to take bilateral talks ... on the nuclear issue of the Korean Peninsula with the United States now," Xinhua quoted the spokesman as saying. DPRK is the acronym for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Washington hopes Beijing will use its economic influence on the North to persuade Pyongyang to return to the negotiating table. Beijing has insisted that it has little influence over Kim's regime, though China is an indispensable source of fuel and trade for the impoverished North.

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld as well as their Japanese counterparts urged North Korea to resume the six-party talks.

"We share a concern about events on the Korean Peninsula," Rice said at a news conference at the State Department following talks with Rumsfeld and the Japanese. "The ministers and I urge North Korea to return to the six-party talks as the best way to end nuclear programs and the only way for North Korea to achieve better relations."

Meanwhile, the North Korean ambassador to the United Nations said in an interview published Saturday that his government had "burned its bridges" in the escalating nuclear standoff.

Han Sung Ryol said his nation was forced to build nuclear weapons because of plans by Washington for a regime change in North Korea, and said the North would never abandon them until the United States promises to end hostility.

"We have no other option but to have nuclear weapons as long as the Americans try to topple our system," South Korea's JoongAng Ilbo newspaper quoted Han as saying. "If the United States withdraws its hostile policy, we will drop our anti-Americanism and befriend it. Then why would we need nuclear weapons?"

Posted 08:26 PM | Comments (0)

... And the winner is.....

The Congressional Research Service, which advises the U.S. Congress with polls and analyses, deems Pakistan as probably the most anti-American country in the world. (reported in the Pakistan Daily Times).

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‘Anti-US feeling high in Pakistan’

* CRS report says Musharraf likely to stay firmly in power in 2005 as Opposition divided

Daily Times Monitor

LAHORE: Notwithstanding its cooperation with the United States in the war against terrorism, Pakistan is probably the “most anti-American country” in the world, according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), which advises the US Congress.

Pakistan is “probably the most anti-American country in the world right now, ranging from the radical Islamists on one side to the liberals and Westernised elites on the other side,” according to a CRS analysis up to February 14, reports the Press Trust of India.

While President Pervez Musharraf has vowed to “finish off extremism”, Pakistan’s Islamists routinely denounce military operations in the tribal areas, resist government attempts to reform madrassas, and criticise cooperation with the US, says the report.

According to K Alan Kronstadt, who is in charge of analysing Asian affairs for the CRS, increasing signs of “Islamisation” and anti-American sentiment add to US concerns about Pakistan’s domestic political developments.

The report says the lack of unity among opposition groups remains a serious constraint on their ability to pressure the Musharraf-led government to step down, the Hindustan Times reports. The CRS report says Musharraf and his supporters in parliament and the military are unlikely to relinquish power in 2005, and the factors behind opposition disunity includes an active campaign of “divide-and-rule” by the military.

“There are more than a few observers who see in Musharraf’s 2004 ‘shuffling’ of prime ministers evidence that the president lacks confidence in the sturdiness of his own system. Many also call the decision to maintain Musharraf’s role as army chief as damaging to his credibility. Thus, many foresee 2005 as a year in which Musharraf will continue to pursue a domestic political strategy of divide-and-rule,” says the report. The generals cannot govern Pakistan, but they will not let anyone else govern it,” one senior Western observer was quoted as saying.

Posted 08:25 PM | Comments (0)

February 18, 2005

Les Guignols, Bush and the World Company

Watching "les Guignols de l'Info", one of the most famous French TV shows, running for more than 15 years, is a very revealing experience regarding the image of George W. Bush and the US "power" in France. But behind the funny jokes lies the basic image that most Europeans, and at first French have of the president and his administration.
"Les Guignols de l'Info" (literally "The puppets clowns of the News") are short news broadcasted every night at 8 p.m on Canal +, a private French channel. In five minutes, they make fun of the "real" news, most of the time with pertinence. Although it is not a totally serious show, most of the observers agree to say that its impact on French opinion is significant.
George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice are the only members of the government who have their own puppets. "Mr Sylvestre", a puppet of Sylvester Stalone dressed up as a soldier, a general, Donald Rumsfeld or the average American, plays every other members. Mr Sylvestre is actually another main character of "Les Guignols de l'Info" : The chief director of the "World Company", something between the Spectre in James Bond movies and the NSA.

Mr Sylvestre, Chief Director of the World Company, and "W".

The concept of the relationship between the president and the World Company is very simple. The World Company governs the country and "W" "plays" president.

George W. Bush's character is an idiot who is only able to say a couple of words ("yeah !", "America" and "papa", sometimes more when he plays parrot). He is a child, playing with cowboys' dolls, small rockets or even nuclear weapons. Every character of the show treats him as a mentally retarded man, and everybody agrees that he is "bloody stupid", and that it is the reason why he is a good American president (easy to manipulate for the World Company).

Mr Sylvestre character is the very embodiment of cynicism. His anthem, "We f... the world", is a adaptation of "We are the world", but in which the world has to be better "for me, and me"... Mr Sylvestre use "beuuhharr" as an "hello", a reference to Rambo, the character he was created for. Mr Sylvestre (and his clones, blonde, dark haired, with glasses or with beard, etc. named John, Bob, Steve, Bill or any typical American name) is however very smart, and knows how to make good deals with the terrorists, win money on poor people, on the pope's business (John Paul II is one of the best trade mark of the world company) or on oil business.

With these two main characters (another famous one is "governator" Schwarzenegger, who is only saying "yeah !" and "Hasta la vista"), the Republicans and the US government is one of the favorite target of "Les Guignols de l'Info". But John Kerry was also ridiculed, as Bill Clinton was. Lets just say that the Democrats looked nicer.

But, of course, this is a caricature...

Posted 08:00 PM | Comments (0)

February 17, 2005

Why many Iranians are pro-Americans and pro-Bush

Nicholas Kristof, Thomas Friedman, and many others keep saying that pro-American feelings are very strong in Iran. A presidential Poll organized by the BBC last year even showed that 52% of Iranians favored Bush over Kerry.

There are many reasons to these feelings that differ from perceptions elsewhere in the world: access to satellite television, opposition to the anti-American regime, and support for a peaceful transition in Iran by Republicans, among others.

They are well explained in an entry titled “Persians Push for Bush” published on two Iranian opposition sites (Regime Change Iran, and Persian Journal.

Posted 03:50 PM | Comments (0)

Growing tension between the White House and Hugo Chávez

Condoleezza Rice recently said that Venezuela “has a destibilizing influence on Latin America.” Chavez answered by saying that the Unite States “has become a terrorist state.”

Venezuela has recently bought Kalatchnikovs, helicopters, and Migs (maybe) from Russia, light planes from Brazil, transport planes and light ships from Spain. On Monday, Chavez signed a strategic alliance with Brazil’s Lula da Silva, and on Tuesday he mended fences with Colombia’s Alvaro Uribe.

The US, on its part keeps ignoring the fact that Chavez has recently won a huge electoral challenge. According to Peter Smith a professor at UC San Diego quoted by the Spanish daily El País, “whatever the imperfections of the August referendum, the White House should accept the fact that Hugo Chávez is the President of Venezuela.”

Not much time for Latin America

Besides a story giving details on the whole issue, El País--which maintains a serious coverage of Latin America--, publishes an interview with Moíses Naim the Venezuelan born director of Foreign Policy, and no friend of Chavez.

Naim does not favor the purchase of weapons and thinks that “there are not enough soldiers for all these Kalashnikovs.” But he complains that the present administration only has “concrete answers and actions in front of emergencies” with no coherent long term and global view. “One can count on the fingers of one’s hands the number of hours spent by high authorities in US foreign policy in the White House, in Defense or in the State Department to think and act about Latin America.”

Naim thinks, nevertheless that this will change during Bush’s second term. He bases his optimism on the fact that there will be more time to think about these issues (Irak will remain a priority but will stop being the exclusive issue), and Robert Zoellick, Condoleeza Rice’s number two knows the region well.

EE UU vigila el arsenal de Chávez

"No hay suficientes soldados para tantos Kaláshsnikov"

Además de alarmarse por esta situación, ¿tiene Washington una política global hacia Latinoamérica? No, afirma Naím: "EE UU tiene respuestas concretas y actuaciones ante emergencias, pero lo que no hay ni ha habido en los últimos cuatro años es una atención sostenida de alto nivel". Y para confirmarlo, añade, no hay que preguntarse si hay o no grandes estrategias oficiales: "Lo que hay que ver es cuántas veces se reunió el Consejo de Seguridad Nacional para hablar de América Latina en los últimos cuatro años; cuántas veces se reunió el gabinete económico para hablar del hemisferio; cuántas veces se reunió George W. Bush con sus principales asesores para rascarse la cabeza y ver qué hacer con América Latina. Y la respuesta es: muy pocas. No hay duda de que se puede contar con los dedos de las manos el número de horas que las altas autoridades de política internacional de EE UU, en la Casa Blanca, en Defensa, o en el Departamento de Estado, han dedicado a pensar y a actuar sobre América Latina. Eso no quiere decir que no haya un estrato de funcionarios que se ocupa de los asuntos latinoamericanos, pero lo hacen sin liderazgo y sin la atención de sus superiores".
Naím es relativamente optimista por varias razones: "Primero, porque tengo la impresión de que aunque Irak seguirá siendo la máxima prioridad, ya no será lo único; dejará de asfixiar al resto de la política exterior, habrá un poco más de oxígeno para pensar sobre otras cosas. Segundo, porque en su campaña electoral del 2000, Bush dijo que él iba a ser un presidente sensible hacia América Latina, como gobernador de un Estado colindante con México, y porque quería consolidar la apertura que su padre hizo del Tratado de Libre Comercio. Es algo que no ha hecho en los primeros cuatro años y creo que sí va a hacer ahora. A esto se añade la llegada de Condoleezza Rice, que ha mostrado un cierto interés por la zona, aunque no está muy familiarizada. Pero para eso tiene a Robert Zoellick [número dos de Rice, ex representante de Comercio Internacional de EE UU], que conoce los temas de América Latina y conoce las personas, las circunstancias y la oportunidad".

Posted 03:18 PM | Comments (0)

How bad is Kyoto for US reputation?

Environmental policies are almost as important as Iraq, in shaping the perception of the US in Europe. European countries have ratified the treaty of Kyoto. The purpose of this treaty is to cut carbon dioxide emissions in order to reduce pollution, the greenhouse effect and global warming. The fact that the United States - the single largest polluter of the world - stays out of the Kyoto treaty is strongly resented in Europe. This story by Mark Landler in The New York Times offers a good sample of European feelings.

Excerpts from Mark Landler's story:
"Mr. Strube, chairman of BASF's supervisory board, responds with a hint of impatience when asked how European industry plans to comply with the Kyoto Protocol, requiring Germany and 34 other nations to cut their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
As the agreement takes effect on Feb. 16, worries about its fairness are mixed with mild resentment. Europeans have set some of the most stringent targets for reducing greenhouse gases, which trap heat in the earth's atmosphere and have been linked by climate experts to global warming.
It is bad enough, in their view, that American and Chinese companies will not bear these extra costs. But worse, the ultimate goal of curbing greenhouse gases will not be realized because carbon dioxide emissions, unlike polluted rivers, are a global rather than a local problem.
"We have already done so much in the past that we feel others should not get a free ride," Mr. Strube said. "We could reach a situation where the leader is a lonely rider going into the sunset, and everyone else sits back and says, O.K., let's wait and see when he will return."
The pressure, he says, should be on the United States, which generates a fifth of the world's greenhouse gases but is staying out of the Kyoto system".

Posted 02:46 PM | Comments (0)

A new start for Bush in Europe?

Four analysts of the Center for Strategic International Studies, based in Washington D.C., assess the scope and the challenges of the President's next trip to Europe. It is quite significant that Bush has chosen as his first destination abroad, at the start of his second mandate, the European Union. This is a supra-national institution to which he did not seem to pay an enormous amount of respect during his first mandate. One of the conclusions of the Csis experts: "President must build personal relationships to manage policy rifts".

WASHINGTON, Feb. 17, 2005—CSIS analysts made the following statements today regarding President Bush’s upcoming trip to Europe:

Simon Serfaty, CSIS Brzezinski Chair in Global Security and Geostrategy (202-775-3110, sserfaty@csis.org): “By going to Europe earlier than any other newly elected U.S. president, George W. Bush is making a statement that he is ready to renew his dialogue with Europe, including those who did not join and even opposed the coalition of the willing in Europe. The trip has been designed to engage the Europeans, not one national capital at a time, but all of them simultaneously, with the EU as a main interlocutor, together with NATO. The goal is not to resolve all our differences, which remain as substantial as they were throughout the past year, but to reassert a shared will to overcome these differences. For the allies not to respond to this opening, and for both sides of the Atlantic not to engage in a dialogue that would permit a better coordination of our actions and policies when dealing with the daunting and urgent agenda that awaits us, would be tragic. Secretary Rice is right -- this is a defining moment comparable, in terms of its urgency and significance, to that which followed the re-election of Harry Truman in November 1948.”

Robin Niblett, CSIS executive vice president and director, CSIS Europe Program (202-775-3226, rniblett@csis.org): “President Bush’s trip to Europe offers the opportunity to start off transatlantic relations during his second term on the right tone and track. The real test, however, will come in the months after the President returns to the White House, when a likely EU decision to lift its arms embargo on China and a possible breakdown in the EU negotiations with Iran could again set transatlantic relations on edge, despite the positive opportunities now emerging in the Arab-Israeli peace process and elsewhere. The importance of the President’s and Secretary Rice’s visits, therefore, is to help build the personal relationships that will be needed to manage the continuing substantive differences in U.S. and European approaches to their common challenges.”
[CSIS EuroFocus on lifting the EU arms embargo on China: http://www.csis.org/europe/eurofocus/v10n3.pdf
CSIS EuroFocus on Europe as a Distracted Partner: http://www.csis.org/europe/eurofocus/v11n1.pdf ]

Janusz Bugajski, director, CSIS East Europe Project, (202-775-3262, jbugajsk@csis.org): “President Bush has a unique opportunity during his European trip to help rebuild and refocus the Alliance on the challenges and threats facing both sides of the Atlantic. During the summit with President Putin in Slovakia, he can also underscore America’s commitment to promoting democracy in all parts of the globe, including Russia. Slovakia provides a perfect venue both to express Washington's solidarity with its new European allies in Central-Eastern Europe, including Ukraine, and to indicate that democracy as the basis of stability and security should have no eastern borders.”

Julianne Smith, deputy director, CSIS International Security Program (202-775-3121, jsmith@csis.org): “As President Bush, the last of the ‘charm offensive’ troika, prepares to travel to Europe, expectations should be kept in check. The trip itself is an important symbolic gesture but it will not succeed in eliminating the deep strategic differences that continue to divide European and American policymakers. Chancellor Schroeder was right to call for a new transatlantic forum to debate those differences but ironically, his delivery--or lack thereof--was off key. By failing to consult with Washington and other European capitals in advance, Schroeder's overhaul proposal fell flat and was interpreted as an attack against NATO. During Bush’s visit, Germany will concentrate on the positive, but between the photo-ops both sides of the Atlantic should identify ways to convert style to substance. The true test of the visit lies in Europe and America’s ability to develop common policies after the President returns home.”

Posted 02:29 PM | Comments (0)

"Spain and Anti-Americanism": A dissenting voice from Spain

"According to the polls, Spain is the most anti-American country in Europe," writes Carlos Alberto Montaner in "España y el antiamericanismo."

Montaner is a Cuban-born author, academic, and journalist who has lived in Madrid (in exile from Fidel Castro's Cuba, one wonders?) since 1970 and contributes to, among other publications, the Miami Herald. He also maintains a webpage of his writings (in Spanish, English, German, Russian, Slovak, Czech, and Polish) at www.firmaspress.com.

In this article from June 2004, Montaner considers the historical and contemporary causes of anti-Americanism in Spain, then concludes:

The Spanish democratic left should recognize that it's absurd to continue attacking an ally vital in all terrains. It's time they understood that we live in a cultural and economic space that is absolutely interrelated, in which we all benefit from the successes of others and suffer from their failures. The need to understand that to be anti-American is also a form of being anti-Spanish...

(More inside.)

He's right that U.S.-Spain relations aren't exactly at their zenith these days. In an October 2004 poll, Spain was the only country surveyed where fewer than half of respondents had "a favourable or unfavourable opinion of Americans," and only 5 percent said events during the past few years had improved their opinion of the United States. And current Prime Minister José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero famously irked the Bush administration by withdrawing Spanish troops from Iraq after his Socialist party swept into power in March 2004 in the wake of an al Qaeda attack on trains in Madrid that killed some 200 people.

But in "Spain and Anti-Americanism," Montaner traces Spanish anti-American sentiment much further back than the Iraq war, identifying its roots in 19th-century tensions between the U.S. and the Spanish right, which were then "reinforced" during the Spanish-American war, as well as in the Spanish left's resentment of the U.S. for not taking a harder line on Spain's Fascist dictator Francisco Franco (during the Cold War, the U.S. cozied up to Spain -- which was seen as strategically important in large part since it controlled access to the Mediterranean Sea).

Montaner takes a hard line of his own toward the Spanish left, arguing that U.S.-Spanish relations were vital to the country's transition to democracy following Franco's death in 1975, and suggesting that Spain cannot afford to turn its back on the United States.

Excerpts from the article (translated from the original Spanish):

According to the polls, Spain is the most anti-American country in Europe. As a consequence, the electoral strategy of the Spanish Socialists during the recent elections to the European Parliament was based on trying to demonstrate that their conservative adversaries were pro-American.
The origin of this negative perception is in the intense campaign launched by the Spanish right in the 19th century, when it identified the United States as a country that was Protestant, the wicked inheritor of the "perfidious Albion," materialistic, masonic, ignorant, dominated by the "Chicago sausages" or by the "Jewish bank." To this ridiculous stereotype, reinforced by the War of 1898 [The Spanish-American War] and partially in effect still today, was added the Marxist vision after the Bolshevik Revolution, and began to describe the United States as a soulless, imperialistic group of multinational corporations dedicated to the exploitation of weak countries and the looting of workers.
The truth is that, contrary to the opinion of the left, the close ties between the Americans and Francoism contributed decisively to the subsequent democratization and development of Spain. The Spanish military, victors of the Spanish Civil War, most of whom were adherents of Fascism, were influenced by the American military, formed from the cult of democratic values, which became a general trial for the subsequent entry of Spain into NATO. Also, the economists and functionaries of Francoism, at the time submerged in the Fascist mythology of economic nationalism, autarchy, and state-controlled economy (as dictated by the right's own Socialist ideology), had access to an American perspective based on the free market and openness to the exterior.
It's unfair, then, to attribute to the United States the kind of complicity with Francoism that supposedly retarded the establishment of democracy. On the contrary, it's very likely that the democratic tendency of King Juan Carlos, vital during the transition, was reinforced by his own pro-American attitude. And it's certain that, following the death of Franco, every time Washington had the opportunity to make its weight felt, it did so in the direction of fomenting the incorporation of Spain to the international mechanisms integrated by democratic nations, be it the European Union or NATO, given that American diplomats were convinced that [Spanish philosopher and essayist José] Ortega y Gasset was correct when he stated that "Spain is the problem, and Europe the solution."
It's a demagogic error on the part of the Socialists to insist on anti-Americanism as a formula for attracting voters. Just as conservative politicians – at least the controlling wing – buried their phobias toward Washington, the Spanish democratic left should recognize that it's absurd to continue attacking an ally vital in all terrains. It's time they understood that we live in a cultural and economic space that is absolutely interrelated, in which we all benefit from the successes of others and suffer from their failures. The need to understand that to be anti-American is also a form of being anti-Spanish, just as being anti-European is a foolish way of being anti-American.

Full text of article (Spanish): http://www.firmaspress.com/388.htm

Recent Montaner articles in English:

Election shows desire for peace
American strategists believe that the consolidation of a democratic state by Palestinians will contribute to the stability of the entire region and that, in due course, that climate of peace will lead to a radical reduction of the levels of anti-Americanism.

Zapatero's dangerous diplomacy
The first consequence of Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero's foreign policy was to chill Spain's relations with Washington.

Posted 12:22 PM | Comments (0)

The American cultural threat

Anti-americanism is especially a cultural problem for most of the people throughout the world. French policy to protect the French and European cultural heritage from the US industry is one of the most restrictive in the world, based on quotas for both theaters and TV.

In October 2004, French President Jacques Chirac gave a speech in Hanoi, which was clearly a warning of a "catastrophe" for global diversity if the United States' cultural hegemony goes unchallenged.
Speaking at a French cultural center in Hanoi ahead of the opening of a summit of European and Asian leaders, Jacques Chirac said France was right to stand up for cultural and linguistic diversity.
He warned that the world's different cultures could be "choked" by US values.
This, he said, would lead to a "general world sub-culture" based around the English language, which would be "a real ecological catastrophe".
Citing Hollywood's stranglehold over the film industry as an example ("You would only have American films on your screens", he warned), Jacques Chirac stressed that only with government assistance could countries maintain their cultural heritage.

"There is a tendency towards a prevailing Anglo-Saxon culture which eclipses the others. If we accepted our American friends' ideas, there would quite quickly be only one form of cultural expression, and all the others would be stifled to the sole benefit of American culture," he said, quoted by Liberation.

See the entire article "Chirac gives an Anti-Americanism lesson in Hanoi" (in French)

This diatribe was, among others, a sign of the "threat" that US culture, industry (via Hollywood) and even language represent in the points of view of France, Europe, and other countries in the world. The cultural industry remains one of the major symbols of American power. That's also why it is seen as a threat.

See the entire debate and the speech of Jacques Chirac (in french)

Posted 11:27 AM | Comments (0)

February 16, 2005

Promoting “the European way of seeing the world”

Javier Solana, High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the EU, and its future minister of Foreign Affairs invited the Spaniards to adopt the EU constitution to strengthen “the European way of seeing the world.” The vote in Spain will take place on February 20th.

According to El País, Solana said that in the course of his frequent trips he has seen “a huge demand for the EU in the world […] because it carries values, and a way of doing things, that are different from those of other powers.”

Besides the pro and anti-American sentiments, a number of people are looking for different sets of references. Some will see them as substitutes, other as a chance to expand the possibilities at hand.

El País/Spain

Solana pide el 'sí' para reforzar "la forma europea de ver el mundo"

Javier Solana, representante internacional de la Unión Europea y futuro ministro de Asuntos Exteriores europeo, cargo que creará la Constitución, pidió ayer el sí en el referéndum del domingo para fortalecer "la forma europea de ver el mundo". Según Solana, en sus viajes ha visto que "hay una gran demanda de la UE en el mundo. Porque tiene peso, pero sobre todo porque lleva detrás unos valores y una forma de hacer las cosas distinta a otras potencias".
Solana multiplicó ayer su presencia en diversos actos en Madrid y Barcelona para apoyar el sí en el referéndum europeo del domingo. En su opinión, esta Constitución hará "más capaz a Europa, más flexible y más rápida" sobre todo en lo que más le interesa a él como Mister PESC (Política Exterior y de Seguridad Común), esto es, en las intervenciones en lugares en conflicto.
"Somos la primera potencia en ayuda humanitaria. Ya no tenemos vecinos que nos puedan atacar. Por eso la UE no es un instrumento de guerra sino de mantenimiento de la paz en todo el mundo. Tenemos 10.000 soldados desplegados en ese tipo de misiones", señaló en un encuentro organizó por el Foro de la Nueva Economía.

Posted 01:04 PM | Comments (0)

February 15, 2005

“How Arnold won the west”

howarnoldwonthewest.jpg As many might know, this is the title of a documentary made by BBC’s Alex Cooke on how Schwarzenegger became governor of California.

There should be not better place to find a friendly approach than GlobalArnold.com, “the global Schwarzenegger fans community”.

"HOW ARNOLD WON THE WEST is a hilarious and insightful documentary that tells the story of the bizarre California Recall Election of 2003."

Global Arnold quotes this comment from the London Daily Telegraph: "A terrific portrait of American Politics in action."

In Le Monde, Thomas Sotinel welcomes the documentary which is being aired in France after what he qualifies of “an overdose of ‘leftist’ or ‘liberal’ movies on political life in the United States.” He finds it useful as “a striking image of a new blurring of the always more tenuous border between politics and entertainment.”

Similar perception

Going back and forth between the governor’s fan site and the French newspaper of reference proves to be meaningful.
For Le Monde, the documentary is useful to understand

“how a democratically elected governor of one of the biggest states of the oldest democracy in the world has seen his seat taken away. In particular how the political debate has been hidden away by the circus created by the recall process.”

GlobalArnold explains:
"135 candidates took part in this extraordinary gubernatorial race, personally paid for (to the tune of $1.7 million) by Republican Congressman Darrell Issa (former owner of America's biggest car alarm company, and brother of a car thief) to eliminate Democratic Governor, Gray Davis. With so many candidates, from delusional hopefuls, to actors, porn stars, self-promoters and performance artists, as well as seasoned politicians, the circus really did come to town."

The use of a common metaphor—circus—seems to indicate a similar perception by Arnold’s fans and Paris skeptics. The conclusions, though, might be quite different.

Extracts from Le Monde's article
"Arnold à la conquête de l'Ouest" : comment la Californie a élu gouverneur un nommé Schwarzenegger
[...]La journaliste britannique Alex Cooke est partie vers l'Ouest, nantie d'une lettre d'accréditation signée de la BBC. Ce qu'elle rapporte dans son film, nous l'avons lu, entendu ou vu à l'époque. Mais c'est le mérite du documentaire que de relier entre eux des éléments qui étaient alors livrés en vrac. Ça s'appelle le montage, et Alex Cooke fait ici la démonstration de son utilité dans la compréhension du monde. On comprend mieux comment un gouverneur démocratiquement élu, dans l'un des plus grands Etats de la plus ancienne démocratie du monde, a pu se voir retirer son siège. Comment, surtout, le débat politique a été masqué par le cirque qu'a suscité la procédure de révocation.

Aux termes de celle-ci, tout citoyen de l'Etat de Californie avait le droit de se présenter, ce que firent quelques originaux, une star du porno, une vedette déchue (l'acteur qui jouait Willie dans le feuilleton Arnold et Willie) et une poignée de fanatiques religieux. Cette brochette était si appétissante qu'une chaîne de télévision a embauché quelques prétendants au siège de gouverneur pour les faire participer à une émission inspirée à la fois de "Star Academy" et du "Maillon faible".

Et c'est là, le film le montre bien, que Schwarzenegger a démontré la supériorité du cinéma sur la télévision. Face à ces célébrités mineures, il fait donner toute la puissance de feu de son statut de star.
Ce documentaire vient bien tard, après ce qui ressemble à une surdose de films "de gauche" ou "libéraux" consacrés à la vie publique aux Etats-Unis. Mais ce serait une erreur d'y voir un simple film militant. Arnold à la conquête de l'Ouest est surtout une image saisissante d'un nouvel effacement de la frontière, toujours plus ténue, entre la politique et le divertissement.

Posted 05:12 PM | Comments (0)

Sexual tortures at Guantanamo

What is the impact on the perception of the US in the Islamic world, from the revelations about "sexual tortures" used by female US soldiers against Islamic prisoners at Guantanamo? Judging from the amount of coverage of this story, Islamic countries media are paying more attention than US media. Al Jazeera has been running it as a front page story on its website
The Turkish weekly has dubbed the story "religious torture". Media outlet from the Arabic countries usually refer to The Washington Post as a source for this story, in order to "validate" its authenticity (it has been confirmed by the Pentagon). In fact this story was circulated by the Associated Press or the first time on January 26, as an excerpt from a book authored by a former Army Sgt and translator at Guantanamo.

Posted 11:57 AM | Comments (0)

Italy "impressed" by Condoleezza Rice

A front-page editorial on the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica describes the positive effect of the new Secretary of State's visit. "The character of Condoleezza Rice has left a strong impression - writes the founder of La Repubblica Eugenio Scalfari - during her recent trip to Europe culminated with the summit with Chirac in Paris and the leaders of Nato and of the European Union in Brussels. It has been widely recognized that she is a person with charisma, an extraordinarily sharp intelligence and a strong will to realize her policies". Nevertheless, the editorial goes on explaining that the Bush Administration does not have an exit strategy from Iraq, and that the recent declarations by vicepresident Dick Cheney about Iran and Syria make Europeans very nervous. www.repubblica.it

Eugenio Scalfari: "La potenza imperiale" La Repubblica 02 February 2005.
"Ha fatto molta impressione la personalità del nuovo segretario di Stato americano, Condoleezza Rice, nel corso del suo recente viaggio in Europa culminato con l´incontro con Chirac a Parigi e con gli alleati della Nato e dell´Unione europea a Bruxelles. Una personalità ? è stato unanimemente riconosciuto ? dotata di grande fascino, di una lucidità mentale fuori dall´ordinario e di una evidente capacità realizzatrice.
Che cosa voleva e che cosa ha chiesto la signora Rice agli alleati europei? Due cose soprattutto: che superassero le divisioni del recente passato con gli Stati Uniti sulla guerra irachena e che, d´ora in poi, fossero disponibili a lavorare con il presidente Bush contribuendo alla ricostruzione di un nuovo Stato democratico in Iraq. Non nuove truppe da inviare, ma la preparazione di nuovi corpi militari iracheni necessari a garantire la sicurezza nel paese, nonché la selezione di una classe dirigente capace di autogovernarlo.
Una strategia di uscita dell´esercito angloamericano attualmente non c´è, ha detto la Rice, aggiungendo due corollari che tuttavia fanno a pugni tra loro. Il primo, rivolto agli europei, è stato: «D´ora in poi dovremo decidere insieme». Il secondo: «Ce ne andremo dall´Iraq quando il lavoro sarà compiuto». Ma chi deciderà che il lavoro è compiuto? E di quale lavoro esattamente si parla?
A Washington è opinione comune che per conoscere veramente i dati della situazione bisogna farsi guidare da ciò che dice la vera autorità della Casa Bianca, il vicepresidente Cheney. Mai prima di lui un vicepresidente aveva contato qualcosa. Lui invece è il vero depositario del potere.
Ebbene, Cheney, proprio mentre la Rice era in viaggio tra Europa e Medio Oriente, ha detto qualche cosa di molto preciso su quel famoso lavoro da compiere. Ha detto che esso sarà finalmente compiuto quando le forze armate irachene saranno in grado di garantire la sicurezza interna e anche quella esterna del paese. Esterna. Cioè nei confronti dei paesi confinanti. Cioè della Siria e soprattutto dell´Iran.
Questa precisazione non viene da Condoleezza ma da Cheney. È chiaro tuttavia che entrambi stanno parlando della medesima cosa, anche perché la Rice sul tasto dell´Iran ha battuto e ribattuto più volte".

Posted 11:39 AM | Comments (0)

February 14, 2005

“Trust Discount” for U.S. Corporations

The Edelman public relations firm which was mentioned in a previous entry recently published a survey of “Global opinion leaders” the Edelman Trust Barometer.

The first conclusion is that the trust in established institutions and figures of authority is being supplanted by a personal web of trust that includes “colleagues,” “friends and family,” “a person like yourself” as well as independent experts.

This indicates distrust in established powers, not foreign to the “anti-powerfulism” that we have found earlier.

The second set of findings shows what the Edelman calls a “Trust discount” for US companies.

The main points:

For the second straight year, the Edelman Trust Barometer found that opinion leaders are significantly less likely to trust individual U.S.-based global corporations operating in Europe and Canada, such as Coca-Cola (U.S. = 69% vs. Europe = 45% and Canada = 46%); McDonalds (58% vs. 25% and. 35%); Burger King (53% vs. 21% and 27%) P&G (74% vs. 44% and 49%); and Citicorp (CitiGroup) (56% vs. 25% and 30%).

However, there is no trust discount for U.S. companies operating in Brazil, China or Japan. Nor does a trust discount exist for Asian and European companies in the U.S.; major non-U.S. corporations have similar trust ratings in every market, such as Shell (U.S. = 46% vs. Europe = 40%); Nissan (U.S = 68% vs. Japan = 63%); Danone (U.S. = 58% vs. Europe = 55%); and Siemens (U.S. 57% vs. Europe = 60%).

The study suggests that the trust discount for U.S. corporations in Europe and Canada is tied to opinion leaders’ perceptions of U.S. culture, values and government. Thirty-two percent of Europeans stated that they are “less likely” to purchase U.S. products because of American culture. More than 40% of opinion leaders in Canada, Europe and Brazil are “less likely” to purchase U.S. products because of the Bush administration. American culture remains a relatively positive attribute in Japan, China and Brazil where 50% or more say it makes them “more likely” to purchase U.S. products.

The Edelman Annual Trust Barometer tracks the attitudes of 1500 opinion leaders: 400 in the United States; 450 in Europe - 150 each in the United Kingdom, France and Germany; 200 in China and 150 in Canada, Brazil and Japan. Opinion leaders are defined as being between 35-64 years, college educated with a household income of more than $75,000 or equivalent and report a significant interest and engagement in the media, economic and policy affairs.

Posted 11:34 AM | Comments (0)

American companies abroad are cautious

American companies in Europe are adjusting to the feelings of the time, and learning how to “fly the flag subtly” writes Kevin J. O'Brien in today’s Herald Tribune.

Some Germans, for instance have protested against the purchase of Boeing aircrafts over Airbus by a big tour operator.

"Our data shows that this is not simply political tension at the root of this, but some underlying discomfort with American culture," says Richard Edelman, chief executive of the Edelman public relations firm in New York.

The key to the issue is localization. “There's no such thing as global media," says Edelman.

What becomes tricky, according to this article, is that “downplaying their heritage” is not an easy thing to do for American companies.

“That could be suicidal at home in the current political climate," said Nick Wreden, an American brand consultant based in Kuala Lumpur who wrote a book called FusionBranding.

Posted 11:07 AM | Comments (0)

February 13, 2005

Americans supporting their president

Six in 10 Americans say they "like" their president as a person. About 36 percent say they strongly do. This is the result of a poll released this week by Fox News. The poll also shows that 91 percent of Republicans and 36 percent of Democrats and 55 percent of independents show support to George W. Bush.

These relatively positive results should be seen in context. Undoubtedly, the success of both the Iraqi and the Palestinian elections was in favor of the Bush administration. Things seem to get better, Iraqis building a democratic country and Palestinians heading towards a peace process with Israel. Positive events help to bring create a more peaceful environment inside the U.S, especially among the anti-war movement.

However, Americans are still divided, particularly on Iraq's occupation. For example, 46 percent think the action was the right thing to do, (50 percent in June 2004), and 49 percent today say it was wrong, (42 percent in 2004). But, again, statistics change when it comes to Democrats or Republicans.

The recent election of Howard Dean as DNC chair, is a clear sign that the best defense the Bush administration can have against the anti-war movement, is showings things are going better in Iraq and making the American people "forget" the cost of the invasion.

Posted 02:30 PM | Comments (0)

Gap in perceptions inside and outside America

It is wrong to think that anti-Americanism in the world is a new phenomenon. A new report from the Pew Global Attitudes Project cites from a Newsweek survey that even back in 1983 most people around the world worried that US global influence was expanding, and majorities in many countries said America's strong military presence actually increased the risk of war. Even in Pakistan, a US ally for decades, just 23% expressed a favorable opinion of the US in a State Department survey conducted in 1999 and 2000.

But anti-Americanism is deeper and broader now than at any time in modern history, it is claimed in the introduction to the report on the web. Anti-Americanism is most acute in the Muslim world, but it spans the globe — from Europe to Asia, from South America to Africa.

The terror attacks of September 11 had the potential to change the dynamic of anti-Americanism, according to the analysis in the report. Initially, there was a spontaneous outpouring of sympathy and support for the US, for example the famous headline in Le Monde: “We are all Americans.” Even in some parts of the Middle East, hostility toward the US appeared to soften a bit. But this reaction proved short-lived. Just a few months after the attacks, a Global Attitudes Project survey of opinion leaders around the world found that, especially outside Western Europe, there was a widespread sense that US policies were a major cause of the attacks. More than half (58%) of non-US opinion leaders thought so. Interestingly, only 18% from the US thought that US policies caused the attacks (see Table 1 Download file ). My interpretation of this survey is that there is a great divergence in perception of the consequences of US foreign policy inside and outside America.

Moreover, solid majorities in every region said that most people in their countries believed it was good for Americans to know what it feels like to be vulnerable. This question was not asked in the US, however.

In the summer and fall of 2002, the Pew Project’s first major survey of 38,000 people in 44 countries found that favorability ratings for the United States had eroded since 2000 in 19 of the 27 countries where trend benchmarks were available. The September attacks thus did not seem to have created a uniting world-wide effect.

Another interesting finding comes from the Pew Global Attitudes Survey from March 2004. This survey finds a huge gap in perceptions of American unilateralism. In the US, 70% think that the US considers other countries to a great deal or to a fair amount. In Great Britain only 36% think the same, in Germany 29%, and in France only 14% (see Table 2, Download file). This indicates, once again, the existence of a great gap in perceptions of the US inside and outside America.

Posted 02:18 PM | Comments (0)

February 12, 2005

Spaniards favor Europe to balance American influence

Spaniards are expected to overwhelmingly approve the European constitution (10 to 1 according to certain polls) on which they will vote on February 20th.

Trying to explain this frame of mind, the French Daily Le Monde reminds its readers that Spaniards have begun to live significantly better after joining the EU.

Moreover, states the article, in this country which did not benefit from the Marshall Plan, anti-Americanism is “latent,” as could be seen during the Iraq war. Many Spaniards think that to say “no” to the Constitution is to say “no” to Europe, and believe that only a strong Europe can balance American influence.

En outre, l'anti-américanisme latent dans un pays qui n'a pas bénéficié du plan Marshall, et qui a rejailli en force lors du conflit irakien, fait dire à beaucoup que seule une Europe unie peut faire contrepoids à l'influence américaine. Pour une majorité, dire "non" à la Constitution revient à dire "non" à l'Europe.

Posted 04:57 PM | Comments (0)

Anti-U.S. Rally in Tehran

Is the phrase "Death to America" more nuanced than it seems?

Last week, the NewsHour's Margaret Warner spoke with reporter Elizabeth Farnsworth (streaming video and audio clips also available), who reported on a rally in Tehran to protest the United States' attitude toward nuclear development in Iran. At the protest, Iranian president Mohammad Khatami delivered a " blistering warning to the U.S.," saying "Iran will turn into a burning hell for the aggressors if, God forbid, there were an aggression."

Despite snowy conditions, Iranians (encouraged by the government) turned out in the thousands to express their anger at Washington. Farnsworth said:

[W]e were sounded by people chanting, "Death to America, death to America." One man said, "Look at all the people coming. This is their revolution. Our fathers started and our children will follow with this revolution."

"Death to America." The sentiment contained therein couldn't be any clearer, right?

Well, maybe not. At the end of her report, Farnsworth described what happened when the cameras and microphones were turned off:

People surrounded us at one point, maybe twenty or thirty people as we were walking in, and chanted and yelled. And, you know, there were effigies of Uncle Sam and there was a lot of passion. But when that was all over, several people would sort of smile and say, "welcome" and "hello" and "where are you from?"
And one man said, "You know, we're saying death to America, but we're not really against Americans," he said, "we're really just against the CIA" and he was smiling at us as he said this.

It would be interesting to be able to quantify how much this sentiment is shared on the streets of the Arab world. My guess is that most Americans, seeing footage like this, would readily think "Gosh, they sure hate us." But if this report is to be believed, fiery slogans like this can often be hyperbolic, a rhetorical way of calling attention to policy disagreements -- and not sincere calls for the slaughter of U.S. citizens.

Posted 04:16 PM | Comments (0)

Turkish public opinion

Condie Rice went to Turkey last week-end. Although lacking in fresh developments her declaration there are presented in this English speaking site as containing positive elements.

Nevertheless, Sami Kohen shows in TurkishPress.com, that there are some “Reasons for anti-US feelings.”

More and more people see the US as an enemy rather than a friend and ally. There are various reasons for this: One is the anger towards US President George W. Bush’s policies (the Iraq’s invasion, threats on neighboring countries, etc.). Bush’s image has become a stereotype encouraging anti-Americanism. Another reason is US actions towards Turkey and how it has disappointed Ankara (its reluctance to fight the PKK and deal with Iraqi Kurds’ activities in northern Iraq). These are being seen as a sign of bad US intentions towards Turkey. Extreme rightist and leftists play an important role in spreading anti-Americanism. They see the US’ hand behind every piece of bad news.

It is tempting to talk, and write about “anti-Americanism” in general, but each case is different, fed by geography, history, culture, and often very specific circumstances.
This should be true for pro-Americanism too (as it appears among Iranian, Chinese, and Indians for instance).

Posted 01:13 PM | Comments (0)

February 11, 2005


“Anti-globalization, anti-war, and anti-Americanism” often go together states Uriah Kriegel in a piece published by Tech Central Station (“Where free markets meet technology”). That allows him to state that in recent years the “worldwide political movement of the left” has defined itself in reactive terms rather than in active one.

That movement formed originally around anti-globalization activism and was consolidated through the opposition to the Iraq war. Its common thread is a certain kind of anti-Americanism and perhaps more generally a sort of "anti-powerfulism," which can be defined as the instinctual opposition to all who are powerful: the United States in the first instance, but the World Bank, WTO, etc. as well.

The interesting point here is obviously the introduction of the notion of “anti-powerfulism.”

Many feelings that can be presented as directed against America for its values are rather reactions against its power.

Some might see this as childish and ridiculous, others as healthy and useful.

What do you think?

Posted 01:05 PM | Comments (0)

Anti-Bush, anti-American, and carnivalesque

BushCarnivalMainz.JPGThis image, taken during Carnival in the German city of Mainz, and published on David's Medienkritik's blog, raises two questions (at least).

The first is about anti-Americanism. The float is ambiguous in the sense in which it ridicules George Bush (and Angela Merkel, the leader of the German Christian Democrat Party).

This should not necessarily be considered “anti-American.”

The problem here is that the president is dressed as Uncle Sam.

In this sense, what is anti-Bush is anti-American too, or at least anti-American Power.

The second issue deals with the picture’s vulgarity. It is undisputable.

But this is a Mainz Carnival float, and that’s what Carnival is about. Cultural context matters.

Ever since the Middle Ages Carnival’s function has precisely to literally put the bottom on top, and to ridicule the powerful in the most grotesque manner. As Mikhail Bakhtin has convincingly shown in his opus magnum on Rabelais, it is an inversion process.

Fools take the place of kings. The lower parts of the body are revered, and sex is everywhere.

The function of Carnival is to do/show things that are not accepted or not allowed during the rest of the year, but its true nature is ambiguity.

It ends up showing objects of desire…

And one should never forget that it operates as safety valve. The steam goes, people are exhausted, and they go back to work and their everyday life.

This is part of what Wikipedia says about “carnivalesque”:

Historically speaking, Bakhtin was interested in great carnivals of medieval Europe. He saw them as occasions in which the political, legal and ideological authoriity of both the church and state were overturned — albeit temporarily — and replaced with the anarchic and liberating world of the carnival. The carnival was liberating not simply because for that short period the church and state had little or no control over the lives of the revellers (as the critic Terry Eagleton has pointed out, this would be 'licensed' transgression at best). Rather, it was liberating in that the carnival — in particular, the idea that set rules and beliefs were not immune to ridicule or reconception — 'cleared the ground' for new ideas to enter into public discourse. Bakhtin goes so far as to suggest that the European Renaissance itself was made possible by the spirit of free thinking and impiety that the carnivals engendered.

Posted 01:06 AM | Comments (0)

Questions about perceptions are not necessarily welcome

An ex president, several ex ministers, and public opinion leaders were present at a speech Condoleezza Rice gave at the Institut d’Études Politiques in Paris, an elite school where most French governing elite get their training. But the students were scarce.

Two students were allowed to ask questions, and – oh surprise - one of them was Benjamin Barnier, son of the French Minister of Foreign Affairs. He asked about the possibility that the Iraqi Shiite majority might create a theocratic government. (See the Washington Post’s version, and Le Monde’s use of it).

In fact, he was not allowed to ask the question that really was on his mind:

"George Bush is not particularly well perceived in the world, particularly in the Middle East. Can you do something to change that?"

Posted 12:18 AM | Comments (1)

February 10, 2005

A pro-American successor to Blair?

Peter Cuthberson, a student at Essex Unversity in England and blogger at Conservative Commentary , published "After Blair" on the American National Review Online site.

Cuthbertson comments on Blair's fluctuating support within his party:

But the dovish socialists who make up most of the Labour membership inside and outside parliament never quite extended their affections to Blair, even as they put their faith in him as an election winner. His interest in the values they upheld always seemed too slight.

For most of them, it was Blair's support for the United States in its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that finally made up their minds. The very usefulness to a Republican administration of a British prime minister willing to stand shoulder to shoulder with the U.S. when so much of Europe and the world were of the opposite position is what so infuriated Labour's Michael Moore-reading base.

He questions whether the United States will be pleased with one of Blair's potential successors, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, MP and member of the Labour party (whom Cuthbertson calls Treasury Secretary), and surmises that perhaps Brown would be supportive of a certain KIND of America:

There is no chance of Brown being a diplomatic foe of America on a par with Jacques Chirac. But the unique qualities that ensured Tony Blair has supported the United States so strongly are not a part of Gordon Brown's makeup. The Bush administration may soon wake up to a Britain whose prime minister's pro-Americanism exists only to the extent that America is leftist and liberal, and whose effective commitment to her paramount goals and needs in these difficult times has vanished.

After Blair
President Bush might not like the man waiting in the wings.

By Peter Cuthbertson

It is a testament to Tony Blair's political success that even as he approaches his ninth year as prime minister, and faces two opposition parties stronger than either have been in a decade, no one expects anyone but him to remain prime minister the day after Britain's next general election, likely to be held in a few months time.

But while presidents are elected and removed by the voters directly, a prime minister is dependent for his position on his party. If the leader of even a governing party cannot retain its support, that leader may be forced out, as one of Blair's predecessors, Margaret Thatcher, discovered to her cost. Tony Blair's problem may be that his party's patience has finally run out.

The British Labour party chose Blair as leader a decade ago because, moderate and telegenic as he was, he was such a different sort of politician than those who had led Labour to four consecutive defeats. As a ticket to power, Tony Blair delivered, achieving landslide election victories in 1997 and 2001. But the dovish socialists who make up most of the Labour membership inside and outside parliament never quite extended their affections to Blair, even as they put their faith in him as an election winner. His interest in the values they upheld always seemed too slight.

For most of them, it was Blair's support for the United States in its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that finally made up their minds. The very usefulness to a Republican administration of a British prime minister willing to stand shoulder to shoulder with the U.S. when so much of Europe and the world were of the opposite position is what so infuriated Labour's Michael Moore-reading base.

Even before the Iraq war began, the opposition Conservative party was more supportive of Blair over Iraq than his own party. In the long and bloody aftermath of the invasion, antiwar voices within Labour feel themselves vindicated. Moreover, a precipitous decline in public support for the government has encouraged many of them to feel that Blair is now an electoral liability compared with most other candidates for Labour leader, especially the ambitious Treasury Secretary Gordon Brown, whose public and private pressure on Blair to quit in his favor has been relentless.

Quite apart from the pressures from his colleagues and Labour's grassroots, Tony Blair is also privately ambivalent about whether he himself wants to go on much longer, and he has publicly pledged that he will quit at some point in Labour's next term. His success in reforming the British constitution and making his party electable again have secured him some place in history, but these are changes that were completed many years ago, and the obstacles to placing the other cornerstones of his desired legacy are formidable. The recalcitrance of Labour's representatives in parliament and the self-interest of the party's financial backers in the labor unions have quashed any hopes of seriously reforming Britain's patchy schools and socialized health-care system. Similarly, in foreign affairs, voters are more wary than ever of the European Union, their Euroskepticism forming an insuperable barrier to the Blair's desire to be remembered as the man who secured Great Britain's European destiny.

A well-sourced book out in January, Robert Peston's Brown's Britain, confirms that in November 2003 Blair had discussed his resignation with Gordon Brown, and — at the time — agreed to step down the following year.

Brown has increased his profile since Christmas, but is likely to remain where he is until the next election, expected on May 5, has been won. Believing himself to be too important to the government that Blair can afford to lose him, Brown has at times privately boasted that he will not consent to go on in his current role — the most senior minister save the prime minister — for a third term, but nor will he take a subordinate post. In the betting markets, the odds of Blair quitting in 2005 have shortened.

Even if Tony Blair makes it through the year, Britain faces a referendum in March 2006 on a new European constitution, so long as another country does not veto it first. Convincing Britons of the merits of submitting to a European super-state is a battle few believe Blair can win, but which would, if lost, almost certainly give the kiss of death to his premiership.

With indications from every significant quarter, including from Blair himself, that President Bush's closest ally may not be around for much longer, it may be time for forward-looking American strategists to ask what the foreign policy of his successor — almost certainly Gordon Brown if Blair goes any time soon — is likely to be.

At first sight, a relaxed attitude would seem appropriate. Gordon Brown is in obvious ways more culturally American than European, as evidenced by his love of Washington D.C.'s political atmosphere and his habit of taking regular vacations in the U.S., while Blair prefers to stay in Europe. Brown is also more Euroskeptic than Blair politically, and has done more than any other Labour figure to halt steps towards British entry into the Euro currency.

But although Brown shows no signs of vulgar anti-Americanism, his pro-Americanism has important qualifications. The America he admires is strictly that of Bill Clinton, to whom he gives total credit for making the 1990s "America's decade," and whose 1992 presidential campaign he found an inspiration. His closest American friends are liberal names like Sidney Blumenthal and Bob Shrum. While open in his admiration for America's dynamism and opportunity, Gordon Brown tempers his respect with typical socialist complaints about inequalities of wealth, as well as a reluctance to acknowledge which things make America a successful economy, and which that permit American citizens to be as successful as their talents will allow.

Above all, Gordon Brown is a creature of his party in a way that Tony Blair never has been. This difference is starkest at Labour's annual conventions each September, as every year Blair will make a speech explaining Labour's success in terms of a bold departure from its traditional values, while Brown determinedly attributes the success to those same Labour values Blair subtly repudiates.

In foreign policy, this is as true as anywhere else. While Blair has shown himself to understand the indispensability of force in foreign policy, Brown has accused Blair of wasting money on defense, forcing Blair to complain feebly that he'd be the first British prime minister in a century to lose a war. While Blair specifically rejected historical theories of balancing powers in an address to Congress, Brown's view is that the U.K.'s role is to link the U.S. and Europe, with no apparent preference between them. Over Iraq, the greatest modern test of Britain's commitment to America, Brown was only as supportive publicly as was absolutely necessary. Privately, he sneered at Blair's support for Bush as "excessive," urging delay before the conflict and a stronger commitment to the United Nations afterwards.

There is no chance of Brown being a diplomatic foe of America on a par with Jacques Chirac. But the unique qualities that ensured Tony Blair has supported the United States so strongly are not a part of Gordon Brown's makeup. The Bush administration may soon wake up to a Britain whose prime minister's pro-Americanism exists only to the extent that America is leftist and liberal, and whose effective commitment to her paramount goals and needs in these difficult times has vanished.

Posted 01:35 PM | Comments (0)

February 08, 2005

Causes and forms of Anti-Americanism

My surf led me to a very interesting discussion on Anti-Americanism, published two years ago but still worth having a look at. It is true that it doesn't include a lot of element from the Iraq war but the potential causes of Anti-Americanim are fully detailed.

My surf led me to a very interesting discussion on Anti-Americanism, published two years ago but still worth having a look at. It is true that it doesn't include a lot of element from the Iraq war but the potential causes of Anti-Americanim are fully detailed. The author starts by the tragic events of 9/11 saying that "masses of people from all over the world not only celebrated America’s tragedy, but even blamed the victims rather than the perpetrators for the terrorist attacks". But the recent danger is not the Islamists who hate America, but bel et bien the Americans themselves who continue to despise their own country, like Noam Chomsky.

Although the participants to the discussion -all of them have published workd on anti-Americanism- try to explain why the world hates America, with a special enphasis on the "elite Anti-Americanism" initiated by some intellectuals disappointed with Communism, I found it more interesting to relate the explanations given by the authors on the difference between domestic and foreign anti-Americanism. For Stanley Kurtz, anti-Americanism in the third world is a deviation from internal problems. As for Dan Flynn, he quotes Samuel Huntington who says that "followers of Islam are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power." Flynn, who wrote "Why the Left Hates America," adds that four ideologies have given rise to anti-Americanism: Communism, the Frankfurt School's Cultural Marxism, relativism, and contemporary multiculturalism.

Front Page Mag

Posted 12:34 PM | Comments (0)

Poll shows Bush unpopular

The visit of Condoleezza Rice to Europe is on the front page of the French daily Le Monde. What is more interesting is the poll published along with the stories on the impopularity of president Bush in Europe. The poll, realized in december 2004 by Emnid in Germany, Sofres in France and Leger Marketing in the U.S, reveals that 65% of French people and 57% of Germans think the U.S president shouldn't have a role in the world affairs. However, 80% of the Americans think he should have an active role. Obviously, a complete difference of perception...

Le Monde

Posted 12:19 PM | Comments (0)

Public opinion in France, Germany, and the US stop drifting apart

Public opinion in two European countries (France, and Germany), and the United States seems to have stoped drifting apart according to the findings of a recently released survey by The German Marshall Fund.

Some key findings include:

• President Bush's re-election does not seem to have put further strain on U.S.--European relations, at least at the level of public opinion
• Americans, French, and Germans are in agreement on what the United States could do to improve relations --- be more committed to diplomacy and not so fast to use the military
• When asked what Europeans could do to improve relations, Americans chose building stronger European military capabilities over contributing troops in Iraq
• There was high support for the UN among all those surveyed, with the number one reason being "problems can't be solved by any single country"

Among the findings highlighted by Le Monde in Paris is that, Bush’s foreign policy remains highly unpopular in France (88%) and in Germany (87%).

Another element is that the Europeans’ opposition to the major role plaid by the U.S. on the international scene which reached 73% in France and 60% in Germany has moved down 8 points in France and 3 in Germany.

65% of the Americans would like to see the EU play a major role, more than a greater presence by France or Germany.

Posted 10:40 AM | Comments (0)

February 07, 2005

But who hates FRANCE the most?

A French freelance journalist has made news and our blog with his tabloid satirizing the state of the United States after Bush's re-election. It's called, what else, "L'anti-Americain."

But have you ever heard of the website www.fuckfrance.com ? Well, on the site, it doesn't overtly say so, but this is the work of an American. The site is registered to an address in Boulder, CO. There's definitely a diversity of content on these pages, and a lot of links to issues with the French-American relationship.

Posted 11:39 PM | Comments (0)

CalPatriots versus L'Anti-Americain

The California Patriots who wished our blog well in its endeavour cannot say the same to French freelance journalist Frederic Royer. On the day of Bush's re-election, Royer created the satirical tabloid L'anti-Americain (see "Evidence Enough" entry on this blog from Feb. 5 AP story).

The conservatives over at the California Patriots certainly don't wish that publication well. In this post, the patriotic writer spits at France, scoffs at Le Monde, and accuses the tabloid's creator of fueling anti-Americanism under the guise of Bush-criticism. This post's angry tone is amusing. He calls the French "monsewers" (but in quotes).

When the Associated Press's story was "breaking news" on Feb. 5, the Google query "L'anti-Americain" returned three results. Two days later, today, Feb. 7, the results number 265. We'll keep watching.

The “monsewers” of France have struck again. Frederic Royer, a freelance French journalist, founded the new French tabloid, L’Anti-Americain, on the day Bush was re-elected. 7,500 copies of the first edition came out in December, with a debut headline titled “France offers political asylum to Americans!” But I thought it was Canada’s to house PEST (Post Election Selection Trauma) afflicted, tongue-speaking, deranged moonbats?

The founder said that his tabloid is more of a criticism of Bush rather than an attack on American society. Really? Then why not rename it “L’Anti-Bush"? Is there no French translation for “Anti-Bush"? And I though the French had translations for everything! (*spit*) Don’t the French already have an anti-American, anti-Bush rag called Le Monde?

I don’t really care if they attack Bush. In fact, they can attack him all they want (it’s called free speech). However, there is also no doubt that French journalists use Bush as a cover to vent their attacks on America. European journalists like “Monsewer” Royer attack American society, and add to the dissonance and poor quality of political discourse. While America tries to reach out to the other sides, it’s people like Royer that fuel anti-French sentiment in America and add to the doubts in many Americans as to whether France is a friend or ally in the foreign arena.



“The name is ‘anti-American’ for laughs, but it’s really anti-Bush,” said Royer.

Um, yea. Really funny (if you’re French!). And thanks for the clarification. I really needed that, because I am some academically impaired goon who has not learned to read between the lines.


“The danger is to do something too basic, too stupidly anti-American,” Royer said. But he expects success “because of the ambient air — maybe what I think a lot of French people are feeling right now.”

Oh, that “ambient air"! How’s France’s air quality these days? Oh, on second thought, French air quality will experience 365 days of thick anti-Americanism with little chance of improving.
But Royer is just being a good entrepreneur, and catering to the wants of the French (notice I said “wants,” not “needs.” )

Posted 11:07 PM | Comments (0)

February 06, 2005

Measuring Anti-Americanism in the World

In the process of tracking, understanding, and discussing anti-Americanism in this group blog, we can learn a lot from the comprehensive international survey conducted by BBC in the summer of 2003. The survey was carried out in 11 countries asking 11,000 people different questions about their views and opinions towards America to be used in the television program What The World Thinks of America. The countries included in the survey were the UK, France, Russia, Indonesia, South Korea, Jordan, Australia, Canada, Israel, Brazil and the US.

The results show that there is a huge difference in people’s attitudes towards America and towards George W. Bush (please click here to watch the graphs). This clearly indicates that the policies of the present US administration matters a great deal to the world, and might even contribute to the level of anti-Americanism. Therefore, I think we need to dig into the question of which policy issues turn people on - and off.

The survey shows that people from the 11 countries to a fair extent agree with US policies on the spread of HIV/AIDS, and to a lesser degree on the fight against terrorism. The world, on the other hand, disagrees with US policies on the issues of world poverty, global warming, nuclear proliferation, and especially on the Israeli/Palestinian question. The general skepticism regarding the latter might explain the very positive reaction, in at least the Danish media, to Bush’s state of the union announcement this Wednesday of a $350 million contribution to the Palestinian cause. The survey shows that all but the Americans are unsatisfied with the US policy towards Israel and Palestine, including Israel.

But how does the world perceive Americans? The respondents think that Americans can best be described as free, arrogant, united, and religious. But the picture here is not very clear. This point towards that identifying values and labels for a whole population is a complicated endeavor.

On the question of the big dangers in the world, an average of 46 percent think that America is more dangerous than Iran. Among the respondents 48 percent think that the superior military power of the US makes the world a more dangerous place, whereas only 12 percent of Americans think the same.

In sum, there seems to be a great divide in the world perception of the US, most often with the US on one side of the table and the rest of the world on the other. Not a very fortunate situation for the world’s greatest power. The world seems to be more frustrated with US policies than with Americans as such. This indicates that the roots of anti-Americanism aren’t to be found in American values, but rather in the actual conduct of US foreign policy regarding the global issues of poverty, environment, and conflict solving.

Posted 11:25 PM | Comments (0)

President George W. Bush -- Giant or Devil?

'It's hard for the States to do anything right these days," writes Der Spiegel Online (English). "The trans-Atlantic relationship is in shambles and Bush once again seems to be on the war path. Oh yeah, his domestic policies are a catastrophe as well."

Following that, a roundup of German newspapers' views of the State of the Union and newly confirmed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit to Europe (more inside).

The article continues:

For the conservative Die Welt, the much talked of trans-Atlantic rift is not only a problem of policy, but of perspective. While the US still sees itself as a "city on a hill" and wants to bring its vision to the rest of the world, Europe has long surpassed such idealism and in fact is "fed up" with huge broken promises and "lost visions," the paper says. One oddity of current American diplomacy, notes the paper, is that "on the outside, Rice won't recognize just how deep problems with Paris and Berlin are." Such aloofness doesn't necessarily sit well with a Europe that not only wants recognition, but a few pats and strokes ...

The tabloid Bild, on the other hand, is full of praise for Condi … It insists the visit is also a sign that America realizes the strategic importance of friendship with the European Union's largest and most powerful nation. "The visit from Bush's superwoman is significant and typically American," Bild commentator Joerg Quoos writes ...

The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung casts its eye on Iran, Syria and Bush's aggressive foreign policy. The headline for its commentary, "A Cowboy Without a Horse," gives a hint of the paper's tone. Although the US military is already overloaded with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the paper says Bush isn't likely to stop his bullying any time soon ...

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, itself a bastion of conservative thinking, focuses on Bush's recent State of the Union Address, in which he described his plan for reforming Social Security … The plan, says the paper, proves one thing: "(Bush) is not a conservative in the traditional sense… He is, to be honest, a radical -- an infuriating radical in his goals and far from squeamish in his methods" ...

The financial daily Handelsblatt likewise rails against such a plan, saying "What's particularly noteworthy about (Bush's) proposals are the things he has left out" ...

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung offers the day's most extreme assessment of Bush under the headline "Giant or Devil." In it, the paper argues, "Bush does not want to be a faceless manipulator of power, rather he aspires to something greater: He sees himself as a revolutionary who wants to turn his nation inside out and change the world."

Posted 09:10 PM | Comments (0)

Four More Long Winters?

Writing for the Argentine daily La Nación, Mario Diament notes that the 2005 State of the Union Address fell on Groundhog Day. He spends several paragraphs telling his readers about Punxsatawney Phil, the groundhog's shadow, and Bill Murray, etc., then concludes what is otherwise a light feature with a slap at the current administration (translated from the original Spanish):

Those who are accustomed to following statistics didn’t miss the fact that in the last four years the groundhog has seen his shadow every time he came out of his hole, and the winters have been inevitably long. A similar feeling must have been experienced by the audience that attended the State of the Union Address, which President George W. Bush gave that night in Congress. Nobody knows if Bush saw his own shadow, but all fear that what it predicts is an overly long winter.

Posted 08:37 PM | Comments (0)

February 05, 2005

Anti-Americanism as a fashion

Will we see one day America at Oprah's for a public therapy wondering: "why they all hate me?" The americaphile Dominic Hilton says Anti-Americanism is unfair and ign orant. Hilton speaks of the "ironic Europeans" and the "conspiratory arab streets" that condemn the U.S as a popular hobby. But not only. Anti-Americanism for Hilton is a lucrative industry, although he doesn't really explain what kind of business it is.

Will we see one day America at Oprah's for a public therapy wondering: "why they all hate me?" The americaphile Dominic Hilton says Anti-Americanism is unfair and ign orant. Hilton speaks of the "ironic Europeans" and the "conspiratory arab streets" that condemn the U.S as a popular hobby. But not only. Anti-Americanism for Hilton is a lucrative industry, although he doesn't really explain what kind of business it is.

So, why does the world hate us? Hilton wonders. He answers: "I said, anti-Americanism is not as alarming as many Americans are making out. Much of it is not serious. In fact, I qualified, most America-thumping is pathetically hypocritical, embarrassingly imbecilic, perilously ruinous and, worst of all, as derisorily fashionable as those ludicrous woolly boots everyone’s presently sporting".

But the administration doesn't think the same and took different measures to improve the image of the US in the Arab world, especially by creating a radio channel, Sawa and a TV channel "Al Hurra" (the Free), both of them, I have to say, are a disaster in terms if rentability and efficienty. For Hilton, it's a waste of time to explain the American values to "middle eastern couch potatoes".

Hilton explains different kinds of Anti-Americanism and stresses out how we should thank America for being imperfect and for being able to critisize. But we shouldn't hate it though. After all, Anti-Americanism is just a deviation, says Hilton. "It helps non-Americans avoid focusing on their own big problems".

Summarizing the reasons of Anti-Americanism in America's power, Hilton says finally that Anti-Americanism starts...inside the U.S with people like...Michael Moore, who is one of the biggest exporters of Anti-Americanism. Yes, Mr Hilton, what a country!

Fashionable Anti-Americanism

Posted 04:04 PM | Comments (0)

Evidence Enough

The Associated Press breaking news this Saturday morning bemusedly describes a four-month-old newspaper in France with the descriptive name: L'Anti-Americain.

A freelance journalist launced the tabloid upon President Bush's re-election and the paper has enjoyed popularity through word-of-mouth and because of it's satirical, tongue-in-cheeck mockery of the United States' shortcomings.

The paper's editor-in-chief says he will give new Secretary of State Condi Rice a free copy when she visits to mend relations with France next week.

Oui, the French!

Forget about all that trans-Atlantic talk of kiss-and-make-up following the "Freedom Fries"-era disagreements between France and the United States. There's a new tabloid on Paris newsstands offering an alternate take: "L'Anti-Americain."

The cheeky newspaper's editor-in-chief says Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice can have a free issue of the satirical monthly when she's in Paris next week.

She'll need to have packed her sense of humor. This month's issue features an entry in a bogus George W. Bush diary that reads: "Ask the CIA: Where's China?"

Rice and her French counterparts hope to rebuild ties bruised by disagreements over the U.S.-led war in Iraq. In Paris, a stop on her swing through Europe and the Middle East, she'll give a major speech in which she's expected to lay out her vision for American diplomacy.

But on French and American streets, mutual distrust still simmers.

On the day Bush won re-election in November, freelance journalist Frederic Royer decided to tap into the zeitgeist and start "L'Anti-Americain."

The French-language paper offers an unflattering, if tongue-in-cheek, look at America's perceived shortcomings _ from fast food to the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Cartoons and editorials featuring sharp-edged critiques of American politicians _ mostly Bush _ are a fixture of mainstream French dailies. Royer's monthly strives to pack more punch. But he insists it's good-natured ribbing.

"We're so invaded by American culture, we can't resist," he said.

The first edition in December sold 7,500 copies, advertised only by word-of-mouth and its eye-catching cover, Royer said.

Its Bush re-election headline read: "France offers political asylum to Americans!"

The cover of January's issue features a voluptuous blonde clad only in an American flag beside a doctored photo of Bush as a paperboy, proudly pointing to his presidential seal.

"The name is 'anti-American' for laughs, but it's really anti-Bush," said Royer.

By ordering troops into Iraq over European protest and refusing to back international efforts to curb global warming, Bush looks to some Europeans like a cowboy thumbing his nose at the world.

Conversely, some Americans see France as ungrateful for U.S. help during World War II.

"These grudges will probably last a long time. They go deep beyond the White House and Washington, and out to Middle America," said political scientist Steven Ekovich of the American University of Paris.

Royer acknowledges the success of "L'Anti-Americain" rests on Bush providing good material.

"The danger is to do something too basic, too stupidly anti-American," Royer said. But he expects success "because of the ambient air _ maybe what I think a lot of French people are feeling right now."

URL: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/2005/02/05/international/i032443S03.DTL

Posted 10:55 AM | Comments (0)

February 04, 2005

An update to the Monroe Doctrine (North American version)

Latin Americans were not the only one to see a reaffirmation of the Monroe Doctrine in George W. Bush's second inaugural speech. A quite acid critique can be found in a Tom Wolfe Op-ed piece in the New York Times.

Wolfe, draws a brief history of the Doctrine (1823: the U.S. has a right to block Europeans from the Western hemisphere) and its three "corollaries" between 1904 and 1950.

The US have the right to shape up any nation of the Hemisphere guilty of wrong doing and powerless in front of Europe; the right to prevent a non hemispheric government to get practical power of control over an hemispheric one (by buying land in great quantity for instance); the affirmation that Communism was only a tool of Soviet appetite.
Since the last corollary attributed to diplomat George Kennan, the world and distances have shrunk. Anti ballistic missiles, jets, satellite phones, and the internet have done the job.

The consequence, according to Wolfe is that:

By Mr. Bush's Inauguration Day, the Hemi in Hemisphere had long since vanished, leaving the Monroe Doctrine with - what? - nothing but a single sphere ... which is to say, the entire world.

"America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one," President Bush said. He added, "From the day of our founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the maker of heaven and earth."

David Gelernter, the scientist and writer, argues that "Americanism" is a fundamentally religious notion shared by an incredibly varied population from every part of the globe and every conceivable background, all of whom feel that they have arrived, as Ronald Reagan put it, at a "shining city upon a hill." God knows how many of them just might agree with President Bush - and Theodore Roosevelt - that it is America's destiny and duty to bring that salvation to all mankind.

In those years, Wolfe argues, the logic that was the base of the Monroe Doctrine (the separation of the Americas from the rest of the world) loses its raison d'être while the rest of the world is discovering what the Monroe Doctrine really means.

Will it react like Latin America?

Posted 11:34 PM | Comments (0)

An update to the Monroe Doctrine (Latin American version)

An update to the Monroe Doctrine (Latin American version)

President Bush's inaugural address has been seen by some as a reaffirmation of the Monroe Doctrine. Not surprisingly there were more mentions of it in the 450 newspapers indexed by Google News Mexico than in the 4500 media sites indexed by the US version of the same service.

Antonio Caballero from Colombia defends the idea in a very measured tone. He recognizes three main traditions in US foreign policy: one of freedom, liberation and human rights (religious freedom, abolition of slavery, Marshall Plan, etc.); one of conquest, extermination of natives, slavery, and aggression (Mexico, the Philippines, Nicaragua, Vietnam etc.).

The third tradition, according to Caballero, consists in "justifying the horrors of the second (imperial and repressive) thanks to the achievements and promises of the first (liberating and in defense of rights)."

A esas dos tradiciones norteamericanas hay que sumar una tercera, que consiste en justificar los horrores de la segunda (la imperial y represiva) por los logros o promesas de la primera (la libertadora y de defensa de los derechos).

During the lat four years, President Bush has enacted the second tradition and spoken according to the third, according to this column published in the weekly Semana.

In the Mexican daily El Universal Pablo Marentes links Bushes speech, which he sees as an update to the Monroe Doctrine, to an unfriendly travel advisory from the State Department about the dangers of Traveling to Mexico. It was published a week after the speech, and was reinforced by a letter about the same issue sent to the Mexican Foreign Minister by the US ambassador. He sees this as new threats against his country's sovereignty.

Caballero is very balanced. Marentes is more aggressive, but his main objective is to embarrass his own government. Both appear to express gut reactions based on a good knowledge of history as seen south of the Rio Grande.

Posted 10:01 PM | Comments (0)

February 02, 2005

Academic License or Anti-Americanism?

M. Shahid Alam, essayist, poet, and economics professor at Northeastern University, was viciously attacked, including death threats, last month by several right-wing websites for two essays he wrote: ``America and Islam: Seeking Parallels” and a follow up, ``Testing Free Speech in America,” both available at http://www.msalam.net.

Below is the text of his letter explaining to his friends and supporters what has happened to him. He also notifies of an upcoming program on Fox News (probably the Bill O'Reilly show) that will attack him and others whom Fox deems "un-American" professors on United States campuses.

Indeed, here is another example of the conservative American right tooting the horn of so-called "anti-Americanism."

Fox Prepares to Attack Me

I published an essay, “America and Islam: Seeking Parallels,” in Counterpunch.Org on December 29, 2004. A day later, I began to receive nasty and threatening emails, all at once. These were orchestrated by a www.littlegreenfootballs.com. Shortly thereafter, other right-wing websites got into act, posting excerpts from the essay; these included jihadwatch.org, campuswatch.org, frontpagemag.com, freerepublic.com, etc. The messages posted on these websites were equally vicious, and some of them, containing explicit death threats, were ‘kindly’ forwarded to me.

What did I say in this essay? I made two points. First, that the 9-11 attacks were an Islamist insurgency: the attackers believe that they are fighting – as the Americans did, in the 1770s – for their freedom and dignity against a foreign occupation/control of their lands. Secondly, I argue that these attacks were the result of a massive political failure of Muslims to resist their tyrannies locally. It was a mistake to attack the US.

I followed the first essay with a second one, “Testing Free Speech In America,” where I elaborate on the points I had made earlier. This too was published in Counterpunch.Org on Jan 1/2, 2005.

The emails to me and the University continued for another two weeks, eventually tapering off. In the meanwhile, I was speaking to people at the ACLU, Boston, and the ADC, Boston. On the suggestion of the ACLU, I contacted the campus police and the police in my hometown to let them know about the death threats posted against me.

I had a feeling this was not the end of the matter. So yesterday, February 1, I received an email from Fox News asking for a TV interview; they were producing a program “on me.” At this point, I spoke to people at ACLU who advised me against going on the program. I received the same advice from other friends. I wrote back to Fox saying I could not do the interview but would be glad to answer any questions. They did not take me up on my offer. Clearly, this would not help them in their designs against me.

It appears that Bill O’Reilly is doing a series on ‘unAmerican’ professors on US campuses. Last night, my wife tells me, he did a piece on Ward Churchill. Tonight will be my turn. I expect he will make all kinds of outlandish accusations that will resonate well with the left- and Muslim-hating members of his audience. This will generate calls and emails to Northeastern and to me – containing threats, calls for firing me, and threats to withhold donations. I am not sure how well NU will stand up against this barrage.

Posted 01:22 PM | Comments (0)

Jihad Unspun

"So Much For The Christian Creed 'Thou Shall Not Lie'" is the title of an article published on Jihad Unspun by Muhammad Abu Nasr about the recent elections in Iraq. The writer who appears to work for the Free Arab Voice begins by quoting Christian Iraqi priests who celebrate the vote that just took place. According to the story, one of them said that people were so happy to vote that the mood was “almost as though it was Carnival.”

That leads the author to write:

Naturally the sentiments of such church authorities must not be mistaken for the views of the overwhelming majority of Iraqis, including those of the Christian faith, who denounce foreign aggression and occupation, and who certainly are not interested in serving as its lackeys. The pro-American priests’ statements show, however, that US imperialism is making every possible effort to bend Christian religious institutions to the will of the invader forces and that some of those institutions – with no regard for their co-religionists’ right to national liberation and self-determination – allow themselves to serve as mouthpieces for imperialist invaders.

The article attacks "pro-Americans" and appears therefore as a good example of "anti-Americanism." Nevertheless, defining "anti-Americanism" might prove more complex than it seems.

In this case, for instance, we have a mix of different sentiments.

The last sentence in particular deserves attention because it associates pro-Americanism with imperialism (an old leftist critique), and Christian institutions (this is a Jihad site), and opposes them to national liberation and self-determination (values about which most would agree).

So I tried to find more information.

Jihad Unspun presents itself as:

"[…] an open information source dedicated to understanding the issues behind the US war on "terrorism". We publish mainstream and uncensored news, articles, and opinions without influence of any government, corporation, or association.
Our mandate is to provide a platform where facts and viewpoints that address the issues at the heart of this "jihad" can be considered, devoid of the constraints of mainstream media."

The site is categorized by Internet Haganah from Israel as "salafyist/jihadist," and by the Information Clearing House as being run by the CIA. It appears to be based in West Vancouver, British Columbia.

Posted 08:26 AM | Comments (0)

February 01, 2005

German commentary on Bush's inaugural speech

bush.jpgThis is the actual photo of Bush that the paper ran with the story, making the hand signal for the Texas Longhorns, but what most German readers would interpret as devil horns.

This commentary by Kurt Kister appeared a couple weeks ago in the Suddeutsche Zeitung, a daily newspaper published in Munich. It’s a pretty good place to start in looking at German attitudes towards the United States.

He starts with a quote from the current president’s father from his inaugural address in 1989 – “A president is neither prince or pope, and I don’t seek a window into men’s souls.”

The writer heard in the younger Bush’s speech something far different from his father’s sentiments, namely what has come to be known as the hawkish or neocon approach. The article goes on to analyze George W. Bush’s speech and put it in perspective for his German readers. I would describe the tone as something along the lines of the American president is taking the gloves off for his second term, and the rest of the world should be afraid.

Here are some translated excerpts (in italics):

These days in America political rhetoric, especially on big occassions, is much more elevated than in Germany. Here pathos is often regarded as ridiculous and invoking the Fatherland, God, or a national destiny is considered suspicious. If Gerhard Schroeder found that kind of language in a speech, he would tell his speechwriter to take it out.

In America it’s different. [people expect that kind of language at an inauguration]…

But, Kister goes on, Bush’s rhetoric isn’t just typical grandstanding. He’s serious about what he’s saying and he offers some specifics about his worldview.

This worldview is the basis of the President’s politics and therefore has great meaning for people between San Francsico and Boston, but also for everyone between Berlin, Baghdad and Peking...

One day, he [Bush] continues “this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world."...

The writer then introduces the English term “manifest destiny” to the audience, an expression that I imagine few non-Americans would be familiar with. Manifest destiny is a philosophy from the mid-19th century, that encouraged American movement westward.

150 years later, it is exactly this ideology that Bush recalls - the spread of freedom. This time, however, it’s not about Kansas and Kentucky any more but about the whole world.

The author then brings up doubt that the president would want to, or be able to, change things in Saudi Arabia, even though it does many of the things Bush says he stands against.

This is how the piece ends -

If and when the untamed fire of freedom will reach Riyadh or Tehran is uncertain. But just as certain, as troubling as it is, is that George W. Bush really believed everything he said on the Capital on January 20th, 2005.

Germans have some tough decisions to make about what their involvement in Iraq is going to be.

Posted 11:15 PM | Comments (0)

Australian PM speaks out against European Anti-Americanism

This weekend, Australian Prime Minster John Howard was at the Davos World Economic Forum in Switzerland pointing fingers and jumped to the defense of the U.S. He was pointing fingers at Europe - calling France and Germany the worst offenders - for straining international relations with their so-called anti-Americanism.

Howard defended the United States in a heated panel discussion wherein many attacked Bush's Iraq policy. He called European anti-Americanism "unfair and irrational." He also included the BBC in entities who foster nasty attitudes toward the U.S. "Can I just say, I mean the negative mind-set of the last five minutes is ridiculous," Mr Howard told the panel.

"I think some of the criticism of the Americans by some Europeans is unfair and irrational, and I have said so."

French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier gave a mild scolding to Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer today, saying the United States and France continue to be allies.

Nobody said anything about the United States' role in straining international relations.

JOHN Howard has lashed out at "old Europe", describing criticism of the US as "unfair and irrational", as global tensions grow over the Iraq war and free trade.

During a vigorous panel debate on US global relations at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, several European officials attacked President George W. Bush's Iraq policy, but Mr Howard stood up to defend his ally.
Earlier in the summit, Mr Howard attacked the European Union over the reintroduction of wheat export subsidies, which he said harmed underdeveloped nations and were contrary to free trade.

"Some of the criticism (of the US) by some of the Europeans is unfair and irrational," Mr Howard said in the panel debate, organised by Britain's BBC TV.

"I mean the negative mindset of the last five minutes (of this debate) is ridiculous - of course America has made mistakes," he said.

Later Mr Howard told The Australian he found the European "irrational level of anti-Americanism" perplexing.

"It is a sign of parochialism and it is disturbingly intense."

He said the BBC debate "was based on an anti-American mindset which was established right at the beginning by the moderators from the BBC".

Mr Howard said anti-Americanism had already affected world co-operation.

"But is very important to remember it is confined to sectors of Europe - not all Europeans. In that debate there was a significantly different tone taken by the Latvian President to that taken by the German and other contributors," Mr Howard said. "The British have a different view through their Government, but there remains in Britain some of the old jealousies that have always been there. "I found the French and German attitude has lingered longer than I thought it might, and longer than is in anyone's interests."

Attacking Europe over its reintroduction of wheat export subsidies, Mr Howard urged the US not to follow suit. "Nothing would help underdeveloped countries more than the removal of trade subsidies and trade barriers.

"If the nations of Europe and North America ... really wanted to help many of the developing countries, then they could do more to help in changing their trade polices than they could through official development assistance," Mr Howard said.

EU and US exporters face increased competition from cheaper grain from Argentina and former Soviet countries that have swelled the global output.

If the US tries to match the EU, analysts fear this could extend the slump in grain prices, which fell to a 20-month low in the US last week.

Mr Howard also held discussions with Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kahrrazi over efforts by the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure Tehran abandons its nuclear program.

"We obviously expressed our concern about the nuclear issue, and we talked on Iraq. He supports the democratic process in Iraq and was more positive about the likely election turnout than many have been," Mr Howard said.


FOREIGN Minister Alexander Downer today copped a sharp retort from France over Prime Minister John Howard's accusation that "anti-Americanism" in European countries was harming international relations.

Mr Downer, on a visit to France, was standing next to French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier when Mr Barnier told journalists he was "very, very surprised" to hear the words Mr Howard had used at the weekend during the Davos World Economic Forum in Switzerland.
He said France and the United States were allies and would remain so despite their differences over the invasion of Iraq.

"Anti-Americanism, when it exists, is no more productive that French bashing," Mr Barnier said.

Mr Howard, a strong US ally, on Sunday accused "old Europe" of unleashing "unfair and irrational" criticism on the United States during a panel debate at the forum.

"America has made mistakes," Mr Howard told the panel, but later added in comments to The Australian newspaper that he believed there was an "irrational level of anti-Americanism" in Europe.

"It is a sign of parochialism and it is disturbingly intense," he said, singling out France and Germany as the worst offenders.

"I found the French and German attitude has lingered longer than I thought it might, and longer than it is in anyone's interests," Mr Howard said.

Posted 07:05 PM | Comments (0)